pH variability and CO2 induced acidification in the North Sea

A coupled carbonate system–marine ecosystem–hydrodynamic model is used to simulate the temporal and spatial variability in pH across the southern North Sea as it relates to the environmental and biological processes affecting CO2, namely, photosynthesis and respiration, riverine boundary conditions and atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Annual pH ranges are found to vary from 1.0 in areas influenced by riverine signals, consistent with observations and previous studies. It is shown that benthic, as well as pelagic, activity is an important factor in this variability. The acidification of the region due to increased fluxes of atmospheric CO2 into the marine system is calculated and shown to exceed, on average, 0.1 pH units over the next 50 years and result in a total acidification of 0.5 pH units below pre-industrial levels at atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 1000 ppm. The potential for measurable changes in biogeochemistry are demonstrated by simulating the observed inhibition of pelagic nitrification with decreasing pH. However, we conclude that there is a lack of knowledge of how acidification might affect the complex interaction of processes that govern marine biogeochemical cycles and a consequent need for further research and observations.

Blackford J. C. & Gilbert F. J., 2007. pH variability and CO2 induced acidification in the North Sea. Journal of Marine Systems 64(1-4): 229-241. Article.

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