Decreased calcification in the Southern Ocean over the satellite record

Widespread ocean acidification is occurring as the ocean absorbs anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, threatening marine ecosystems, particularly the calcifying plankton that provide the base of the marine food chain and play a key role within the global carbon cycle. We use satellite estimates of particulate inorganic carbon (PIC), surface chlorophyll, and sea surface temperature to provide a first estimate of changing calcification rates throughout the Southern Ocean. From 1998 to 2014 we observe a 4% basin-wide reduction in summer calcification, with ~9% reductions in large regions (~1×106 km2) of the Pacific and Indian sectors. Southern Ocean trends are spatially heterogeneous and primarily driven by changes in PIC concentration (suspended calcite), which has declined by ~24% in these regions. The observed decline in Southern Ocean calcification and PIC is suggestive of large-scale changes in the carbon cycle and provides insight into organism vulnerability in a changing environment.

Freeman N. M. & Lovenduski N. S., in press. Decreased calcification in the Southern Ocean over the satellite record. Geophysical Research Letters. Article (subscription required).

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