Effects of ocean acidification on the biogenic composition of the sea-surface microlayer: Results from a mesocosm study

The sea-surface microlayer (SML) is the ocean’s uppermost boundary to the atmosphere and in control of climate relevant processes like gas exchange and emission of marine primary organic aerosols (POA). The SML represents a complex surface film including organic components like polysaccharides, proteins, and marine gel particles, and harbors diverse microbial communities. Despite the potential relevance of the SML in ocean-atmosphere interactions still little is known about its structural characteristics and sensitivity to a changing environment such as increased oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2. Here, we report results of a large scale mesocosm study, indicating that ocean acidification can affect the abundance and activity of microorganisms during phytoplankton blooms, resulting in changes in composition and dynamics of organic matter in the SML. Our results reveal a potential coupling between anthropogenic CO2 emissions and the biogenic properties of the SML, pointing to a hitherto disregarded feedback process between ocean and atmosphere under climate change.

Galgani L., Stolle C., Endres S., Schulz K. G. & Engel A., in press. Effects of ocean acidification on the biogenic composition of the sea-surface microlayer: Results from a mesocosm study. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. Article (subscription required).

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