The abiotic formation of TEP under different ocean acidification scenarios

In view of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, the question if the marine biological carbon pump will increase or decrease in efficiency as ocean acidification progresses becomes central for predictions of future atmospheric pCO2. Aggregation and sinking of aggregates contributes significantly to the flux of carbon to depths and changes in aggregation behavior will have far reaching consequences for the biological pump. The abundance and characteristics of Transparent Exopolymer Particles, TEP, are central in regulating aggregation. We investigated the impact of ocean acidification on the abiotic formation of TEP from their precursors. Our results demonstrate that, contrary to earlier suggestions, ocean acidification as expected in the future ocean has no impact on the equilibrium conditions between TEP and their precursors. However, if the carbonate system is altered by adding acid, which does not simulate the future ocean carbonate system correctly, TEP concentration increases with decreasing pH, presumably due to changes in total alkalinity (TA). This implies that abiotic TEP formation is sensitive to changes in TA, but not pH. The discrepancy in results caused by different experimental approaches emphasizes the fact that acidification experiments do not mimic future conditions adequately and may even be misleading.

Passow U., in press. The abiotic formation of TEP under different ocean acidification scenarios. Marine Chemistry. doi:10.1016/j.marchem.2011.10.004. Article (subscription required).

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