Threshold of carbonate saturation state determined by a CO2 control experiment

Acidification of the oceans by increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions will cause a decrease in biogenic calcification and an increase in carbonate dissolution. Previous studies suggest that carbonate dissolution will occur in polar regions and in the deep-sea oceans where saturation state with respect to carbonate minerals (Ω) will be <1 by 2100. However, carbonate in coral reefs distributed in tropical zones will not dissolve because the major carbonate in such reefs is aragonite, and the saturation state with respect to aragonite (Ω_a) is >1. Recent reports demonstrated nocturnal carbonate dissolution reefs, despite Ω_a > 1, probably relate to the dissolution of the minor reef carbonate (Mg-calcite), which is more soluble than aragonite. However, the threshold of Ω for the dissolution of natural sediments has not been clearly determined, and it is unknown whether these dissolution processes actually occur under natural conditions. This work describes the measurement of the dissolution rates of coral aragonite and Mg calcite excreted by marine organisms under conditions of Ω_a > 1 with controlled seawater pCO2. Laboratory experimental data of the present study show that bulk carbonate sediments sampled from a coral reef start to dissolve when Ω_a = 3.7, and dissolution rates increase with falling Ω_a. Mg-calcite derived from foraminifera and coralline algae dissolved when Ω_a reached 3.4, whereas coralline aragonite started to dissolve when Ω_a was almost 1.0. We show that nocturnal carbonate dissolution of coral reefs occurs mainly by the dissolution of foraminifera and coralline algae in reef sediment.

Yamamoto S., Kayanne H., Terai M., Watanabe A., Kato K., Negishi A., & Nozaki K., 2011. Threshold of carbonate saturation state determined by a CO2 control experiment. Biogeosciences Discussions 8(4):8619-8644. Article.

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