CO2 perturbation experiments: similarities and differences between dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity manipulations

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) through human activities and invasion of anthropogenic CO2 into the surface ocean alters the seawater carbonate chemistry, increasing CO2 and bicarbonate (HCO3) at the expense of carbonate ion (CO32−) concentrations. This redistribution in the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) pool decreases pH and carbonate saturation state (Ω). Several of these components are considered potential key variables influencing calcium carbonate precipitation in marine calcifiers such as coccolithophores, foraminifera, corals, mollusks and echinoderms. In need for improved understanding of the sensitivities of marine organisms and ecosystems to CO2 induced ocean acidification (OA), experimental CO2 perturbation studies will continue to be a backbone in future OA research. This requires accurate carbonate system manipulations and well-controlled experimental setups. Here we describe and analyse the chemical changes involved in the two basic approaches for carbonate chemistry manipulation, i.e. changing DIC at constant total alkalinity (TA) and changing TA at constant DIC. Furthermore, we briefly introduce several methods to experimentally manipulate DIC and TA. Finally, we examine responses obtained with both approaches using published results for the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi. We conclude that under most experimental conditions DIC or TA manipulations yield similar changes in all parameters of the carbonate system, which implies direct comparability of data obtained with the two basic approaches for CO2 perturbation.



Schulz, K. G., Barcelos e Ramos, J., Zeebe, R. E., & Riebesell, U., 2009. CO2 perturbation experiments: similarities and differences between dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity manipulations. Biogeosciences Discussions 6:4441-4462. Article.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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