Two decades of inorganic carbon dynamics along the Western Antarctic Peninsula

We present 20 years of seawater inorganic carbon measurements collected along the western shelf and slope of the Antarctic Peninsula. Water column observations from summertime cruises and seasonal surface underway pCO2 measurements provide unique insights into the spatial, seasonal and interannual variability of the dynamic system. The discrete measurements from depths > 2000 m align well with World Ocean Circulation Experiment observations across the time-series and underline the consistency of the data set. Analysis shows large spatial gradients in surface alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon content, with a concomitant wide range of Ωarag from values < 1 up to 3.9. This spatial variability was mainly driven by increasing influence of biological productivity towards the southern end of the sampling grid and melt water input along the coast towards the northern end. Large inorganic carbon drawdown through biological production in summer caused high near-shore Ωarag despite glacial and sea-ice melt water input. In support of previous studies, we observed Redfield behavior of regional C / N nutrient utilization, while the C / P (80.5 ± 2.5) and N / P (11.7 ± 0.3) molar ratios were significantly lower than the Redfield elemental stoichiometric values. Seasonal predictions of Ωarag suggest that surface waters remained mostly supersaturated with regard to aragonite throughout the study. However, more than a third of the predictions for winters between 1999 and 2013 resulted in Ωarag < 1.3. Such low levels of Ωarag may have implications for important organisms such as pteropods. Despite large interannual variability, surface pCO2 measurements indicate a statistically significant increasing trend of up to 23 μatm per decade in fall and spring and a concomitant decreasing pH, pointing towards first signs of ocean acidification in the region. The combination of ongoing ocean acidification and freshwater input may soon provoke more unfavorable conditions than what the ecosystem experiences today.

Hauri C., Doney S. C., Takahashi T., Erickson M., Jiang G. & Ducklow H. W., 2015. Two decades of inorganic carbon dynamics along the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Biogeosciences Discussions 12:6929-6969. Article.

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