The influence of mangrove-fringed tropical estuaries on coastal carbon budgets has been widely recognised. However, a quantitative differentiation between riverine and mangrove-derived inputs to the dissolved (DOM) and microparticulate organic matter (POM) pool of these environments has been hitherto not possible. Based on lignin-derived phenols and stable carbon isotopes a chemical signature for mangrove, terrestrial and marine-derived organic matter was established for a mangrove estuary in North Brazil. A mixing model was applied to calculate the contribution of each of the three sources to the DOM and POM pool in the estuary throughout 18 tidal cycles in the course of one year. Best source assignment for POM was reached with the yield of lignin phenols and d13C as paired indicators, while the origin of DOM was best identified by the yield of lignin phenols and the acid to aldehyde ratio of vanillyl phenols. Although only about 6 % of the fluvial catchment area is covered by mangroves, their contribution to the estuarine DOM and POM pool generally exceeded several times the terrigenic input from the hinterland. This outwelling of mangrove-derived organic matter was enhanced during the rainy season. DOM and POM were exported from the mangrove to the estuary in similar proportions. Most mangrove-POM was rapidly removed from the water column, while mangrove-DOM behaved conservatively. In contrast, terrestrial DOM was almost entirely removed in the outer part of the estuary, which was accompanied by a concomitant increase in terrestrial POM. This seems to be the result of a geochemical barrier zone for this type of DOM in the estuary. Generally a high proportion of mangrove-DOM was present in the outer part of the estuary, even at high tide. This indicates DOM outwelling from mangroves in adjacent bays or estuaries and points to similar driving forces controlling this process on a regional scale. Mangroves probably play a more important role than rivers for marine carbon budgets along the North Brazilian coast south of the Amazon estuary.