Dynamics of the carbonate system in a large continental shelf system under the influence of both a river plume and coastal upwelling

We examined the dynamics of the carbonate system in a complex mixing scheme with enhanced biological consumption modulated by both a river plume and summer coastal upwelling in a large shelf system, the northern South China Sea (NSCS) shelf. The plume waters originated from a large flooding upstream the Pearl River, and extended from the mouth of the Pearl River estuary to the middle shelf and were characterized by low dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TAlk), and a high aragonite saturation state (Ωarag). In contrast, the upwelled water occupying the nearshore area was distinguished by high DIC and TAlk and a low Ωarag. While the dynamics of the carbonate system were largely shaped by physical mixing through plume and upwelling processes between the plume water, the offshore subsurface water and the offshore surface water, biological consumption of DIC was observable in both the river plume and the coastal upwelling areas and contributed to the elevated Ωarag during their pathway. Correlations between salinity normalized TAlk and DIC indicated that organic carbon production rather than biocalcification exclusively induced the DIC removal. By using a three end-member mixing model, we estimated the net community productivity in the plume water and the upwelled water to be 36 ± 19 mmol C m−2 d−1 and 23 ± 26 mmol C m−2 d−1, respectively. With the combination of stoichiometric relationship analysis of the carbonate system and applying the three end-member mixing model, we successfully differentiated semiquantitatively the biologically mediated DIC variations from its overall mixing control. We also attempted to link this natural process to the carbonate saturation on the NSCS shelf, contending that at present natural factors associated with the river plume and the coastal upwelling largely modulate the dynamics of the carbonate system on the NSCS shelf, whereas anthropogenic stressors such as ocean acidification currently play a relatively minor role.

Cao, Z., Dai M., Zheng N., Wang D., Li Q., Zhai W., Meng F., & Gan J., 2011. Dynamics of the carbonate system in a large continental shelf system under the influence of both a river plume and coastal upwelling. Journal of Geophysical Research 116:G02010. Article (subscription required).


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