Quantifying the influence of CO2 seasonality on future ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is a predictable consequence of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), and is highly likely to impact the entire marine ecosystem – from plankton at the base to fish at the top. Factors which are expected to be impacted include reproductive health, organism growth and species composition and distribution. Predicting when critical threshold values will be reached is crucial for projecting the future health of marine ecosystems and for marine resources planning and management. The impacts of ocean acidification will be first felt at the seasonal scale, however our understanding how seasonal variability will influence rates of future ocean acidification remains poorly constrained due to current model and data limitations. To address this issue, we first quantified the seasonal cycle of aragonite saturation state utilizing new data-based estimates of global ocean surface dissolved inorganic carbon and alkalinity. This seasonality was then combined with earth system model projections under different emissions scenarios (RCPs 2.6, 4.5 and 8.5) to provide new insights into future aragonite under-saturation onset. Under a high emissions scenario (RCP 8.5), our results suggest accounting for seasonality will bring forward the initial onset of month-long under-saturation by 17 years compared to annual-mean estimates, with differences extending up to 35 ± 17 years in the North Pacific due to strong regional seasonality. Our results also show large-scale under-saturation once atmospheric CO2 reaches 486 ppm in the North Pacific and 511 ppm in the Southern Ocean independent of emission scenario. Our results suggest that accounting for seasonality is critical to projecting the future impacts of ocean acidification on the marine environment.

Sasse T. P., McNeil B. I., Matear R. J. & Lenton A., 2015. Quantifying the influence of CO2 seasonality on future ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discussions 12:5907-5940. Article.


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