Skeletal mineralogy in a high-CO2 world

Increasing atmospheric pCO2 reduces the saturation state of seawater with respect to the aragonite, high-Mg calcite (Mg/Ca > 0.04), and low-Mg calcite (Mg/Ca < 0.04) minerals from which marine calcifiers build their shells and skeletons. Notably, these polymorphs of CaCO3 have different solubilities in seawater: aragonite is more soluble than pure calcite, and the solubility of calcite increases with its Mg-content. Although much recent progress has been made investigating the effects of CO2-induced ocean acidification on rates of biological calcification, considerable uncertainties remain regarding impacts on shell/skeletal polymorph mineralogy. To investigate this subject, eighteen species of marine calcifiers were reared for 60-days in seawater bubbled with air-CO2 mixtures of 409 ± 6, 606 ± 7, 903 ± 12, and 2856 ± 54 ppm pCO2, yielding aragonite saturation states (ΩA) of 2.5 ± 0.4, 2.0 ± 0.4, 1.5 ± 0.3, and 0.7 ± 0.2. Calcite/aragonite ratios within bimineralic calcifiers increased with increasing pCO2, but were invariant within monomineralic calcifiers. Calcite Mg/Ca ratios (Mg/CaC) also varied with atmospheric pCO2 for two of the five high-Mg-calcite-producing organisms, but not for the low-Mg-calcite-producing organisms. These results suggest that shell/skeletal mineralogy within some—but not all—marine calcifiers will change as atmospheric pCO2 continues rising as a result of fossil fuel combustion and deforestation. Paleoceanographic reconstructions of seawater Mg/Ca, temperature, and salinity from the Mg/CaC of well-preserved calcitic marine fossils may also be improved by accounting for the effects of paleo-atmospheric pCO2 on skeletal Mg-fractionation.

Ries J. B., 2011. Skeletal mineralogy in a high-CO2 world. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 403(1-2):54-64. Article (subscription required).

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