Modelling the contributions to marine acidification from deposited SOx, NOx, and NHx in the Baltic SEA: Past and present situations

We have examined the effects of historical atmospheric depositions of sulphate, nitrate, and ammonium from land and shipping on the acid–base balance in the Baltic Sea. The modelling considers the 1750–2014 period, when land and ship emissions changed greatly, with increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, SOx, NOx, and NHx emissions, and nutrient loads.

The present results indicate that Baltic Sea acidification due to the atmospheric deposition of acids peaked around 1980, with a pH cumulative decrease of approximately 10−2 in surface waters. This is one order of magnitude less than the cumulative acidification due to increased atmospheric CO2. The acidification contribution of shipping is one order of magnitude less than that of land emissions. However, the pH trend due to atmospheric acids has started to reverse due to reduced land emissions, though the effect of shipping is ongoing.

The effect of strong atmospheric acids on Baltic Sea water depends on the region and period studied. The largest total alkalinity sink per surface area is in the south-western Baltic Sea where shipping is intense. Considering the entire Baltic Sea over the 2001–2010 period, the pH changes are approximately −3×10−3 to −11×10−3 and −4×10−4 to −16×10−4 pH units attributable to all emissions and ship emissions only, respectively. The corresponding changes in total alkalinity are approximately −10 to −30 µmol kg−1 and −1 to −4 µmol kg−1 attributable to all emissions and ship emissions only, respectively.

Omstedt A., Edman M., Claremar B. & Rutgersson A., in press. Modelling the contributions to marine acidification from deposited SOx, NOx, and NHx in the Baltic SEA: Past and present situations. Continental Shelf Research. Article (subcription required).


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