Accumulation of metabolic CO2 can acidify marine waters above and beyond the ongoing acidification of the ocean by anthropogenic CO2. The impact of respiration on carbonate chemistry and pH is most acute in hypoxic and anoxic basins, where metabolic CO2 accumulates to high concentrations. The bottom waters of the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary (LSLE), where persistently severe hypoxia has developed over the last 80 years, is one such case. We have reconstructed the evolution of pH in the bottom waters from historical and recent data, and from first principles relating the stoichiometry of CO2 produced to oxygen consumed during microbial degradation of organic matter. Based on the value of the atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 that best reproduces the preformed dissolved inorganic carbon concentration in the bottom waters, we estimate the average ventilation age of the bottom waters to be 16 ± 3 years. The pH of the bottom waters has decreased by 0.2 to 0.3 over the last 75 years, which is four to six times greater than can be attributed to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2. The pH decrease is accompanied by a decline in the saturation state with respect to both calcite and aragonite. As of 2007, bottom waters in the LSLE are slightly supersaturated with respect to calcite (Ωc ≈ 1.06 ± 0.04) but are strongly undersaturated with respect to aragonite (Ωa ≈ 0.67 ± 0.03).
Archive for December 7th, 2011
Two hundred fifty million years ago, the world suffered the greatest recorded extinction of all time. More than 90% of marine animals and a majority of terrestrial species disappeared, yet the cause of the Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB) dieoff remains unknown. Various theories abound, with most focusing on rampant Siberian volcanism and its potential consequences: global warming, carbon dioxide poisoning, ocean acidification, or the severe drawdown of oceanic dissolved oxygen levels, also known as anoxia. To narrow the range of possible causes, Montenegro et al. ran climate simulations for PTB using the University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model, a carbon cycle-climate coupled general circulation model.
Carbon-use strategies in macroalgae: Differential responses to lowered pH and implications for ocean acidificationPublished 7 December 2011 Science Leave a Comment
Tags: algae, biological response
Ocean acidification (OA) is a reduction in oceanic pH due to increased absorption of anthropogenically produced CO2. This change alters the seawater concentrations of inorganic carbon species that are utilized by macroalgae for photosynthesis and calcification: CO2 and HCO3− increase; CO32− decreases. Two common methods of experimentally reducing seawater pH differentially alter other aspects of carbonate chemistry: the addition of CO2 gas mimics changes predicted due to OA, while the addition of HCl results in a comparatively lower [HCO3−]. We measured the short-term photosynthetic responses of five macroalgal species with various carbon-use strategies in one of three seawater pH treatments: pH 7.5 lowered by bubbling CO2 gas, pH 7.5 lowered by HCl, and ambient pH 7.9. There was no difference in photosynthetic rates between the CO2, HCl, or pH 7.9 treatments for any of the species examined. However, the ability of macroalgae to raise the pH of the surrounding seawater through carbon uptake was greatest in the pH 7.5 treatments. Modeling of pH change due to carbon assimilation indicated that macroalgal species that could utilize HCO3− increased their use of CO2 in the pH 7.5 treatments compared to pH 7.9 treatments. Species only capable of using CO2 did so exclusively in all treatments. Although CO2 is not likely to be limiting for photosynthesis for the macroalgal species examined, the diffusive uptake of CO2 is less energetically expensive than active HCO3− uptake, and so HCO3−-using macroalgae may benefit in future seawater with elevated CO2.