CO2-driven compromises to marine life along the Chilean coast

CO2-driven compromises to marine life were examined along the Chilean sector of the Humboldt Current System, a particularly vulnerable hypoxic and upwelling area, applying the Respiration index (RI = log10 pO2pCO2) and the pH-dependent aragonite saturation (Ω) to delineate the water masses where aerobic and calcifying organisms are stressed. There was a remarkable negative relationship between oxygen concentration and pH or pCO2 in the studied area, with the subsurface hypoxic Equatorial Subsurface Waters extending from 100 m to about 300 m depth and supporting elevated pCO2 values. The RI reached a minimum at about 200 m depth and decreased towards the Equator. Increased pCO2 in the hypoxic water layer reduced the RI values by as much as 0.59 RI units, with the upper water layer that presents conditions suitable for aerobic life (RI>0.7) declining by half between 42° S and 28° S. The intermediate waters hardly reached those stations closer to the equator so that the increased pCO2 lowered pH and the saturation of aragonite. A significant fraction of the water column along the Chilean sector of the Humboldt Current System suffers from CO2–driven compromises to biota, including waters corrosive to calcifying organisms, stress to aerobic organisms or both. The habitat free of CO2-driven stresses was restricted to the upper mixed layer and to small water parcels at about 1000 m depth. pCO2 acts as a hinge connecting respiratory and calcification challenges expected to increase in the future, resulting in a spread of the challenges to aerobic organisms.

Mayol, E., Ruiz-Halpern, S., Duarte, C. M., Castilla, J. C., & Pelegrí, J. L., 2010. CO2-driven compromises to marine life along the Chilean coast. Biogeosciences Discussions 7(6):8895-8918. Article.

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