The Arctic Ocean marine carbon cycle: evaluation of air-sea CO2 exchanges, ocean acidification impacts and potential feedbacks

At present, although seasonal sea-ice cover mitigates atmosphere-ocean gas exchange, the Arctic Ocean takes up carbon dioxide (CO2) on the order of −65 to −175 Tg C year−1, contributing 5–14% to the global balance of CO2 sinks and sources. Because of this, the Arctic Ocean is an important influence on the global carbon cycle, with the marine carbon cycle and atmosphere-ocean CO2 exchanges sensitive to Arctic Ocean and global climate change feedbacks. In the near-term, further sea-ice loss and increases in phytoplankton growth rates are expected to increase the uptake of CO2 by Arctic surface waters, although mitigated somewhat by surface warming in the Arctic. Thus, the capacity of the Arctic Ocean to uptake CO2 is expected to alter in response to environmental changes driven largely by climate. These changes are likely to continue to modify the physics, biogeochemistry, and ecology of the Arctic Ocean in ways that are not yet fully understood. In surface waters, sea-ice melt, river runoff, cooling and uptake of CO2 through air-sea gas exchange combine to decrease the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) mineral saturation states (Ω) of seawater that is counteracted by seasonal phytoplankton primary production (PP). Biological processes drive divergent trajectories for Ω in surface and subsurface waters of Arctic shelves with subsurface water experiencing undersaturation with respect to aragonite and calcite. Thus, in response to increased sea-ice loss, warming and enhanced phytoplankton PP, the benthic ecosystem of the Arctic shelves are expected to be negatively impacted by the biological amplification of ocean acidification. This in turn reduces the ability of many species to produce CaCO3 shells or tests with profound implications for Arctic marine ecosystems.



Bates, N. R. & Mathis, J. T., 2009. The Arctic Ocean marine carbon cycle: evaluation of air-sea CO2 exchanges, ocean acidification impacts and potential feedbacks. Biogeosciences Discussions 6(4):6695-6747. Article.

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