Assessment of pH variability at a coastal CO2 vent for ocean acidification studies

Marine environments with naturally high CO2 concentrations have become important research sites for studying the impacts of future ocean acidification on biological processes. We conducted high temporal resolution pH and temperature measurements in and around a shallow (2.5 to 3 m) CO2 vent site off Ischia, Italy in May and June 2008. Loggers were deployed at five stations to monitor water at both the surface and benthos. Our reference station, 500 m from the CO2 vent, had no noticeable vent influence. It had a naturally high and stable benthic pH (mean 8.16, inter-quartile range (IQ): 8.14 to 8.18) fluctuating with diel periodicity, presumably driven by community photosynthesis and respiration. A principal component analysis (PCA) revealed that the pH of this station was well constrained by meteorological parameters. In contrast, a station positioned within the vent zone, had a low and very variable benthic mean pH of 7.11 (IQ: 6.91 to 7.62) with large pH fluctuations not well-constrained by a PCA. Any stations positioned within 20 m of the main vent zone had lowered pH but suffered from abnormally large pH fluctuations making them unsuitable representatives to show future changes to a shallow coastal environment. Between these extremes we identified a benthic area with a lower pH of 7.84 (IQ: 7.83 to 7.88) that retained many of the characteristics of the reference station such as a natural diel pH periodicity and low variability. Our results indicate that a range of pH environments may be commonplace near CO2 vents due to their characteristic acidification of benthic water over a wide area. Such environments could become invaluable natural laboratories for ocean acidification research, closely mimicking future CO2 conditions in a natural setting.

Kerrison P., Hall-Spencer J. M., Suggett D., Hepburn L. J., & Steinke M., in press. Assessment of pH Variability at a Coastal CO2 Vent for Ocean Acidification Studies. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2011.05.025. Article (subscription required).


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