High-resolution ocean pH dynamics in four subtropical Atlantic benthic habitats

Oscillations of ocean pH are largely unknown in coastal environments and ocean acidification studies often do not account for natural variability yet most of what is known about marine species and populations is found out via studies conducted in near shore environments. Most experiments designed to make predictions about future climate change scenarios are carried out in coastal environments with no research that takes into account the natural pH variability. In order to fill this knowledge gap and to provide reliable measures of pH oscillation, seawater pH was measured over time using moored pH sensors in four contrasting phytocenoses typical of the north Atlantic subtropical region. Each phytocenosis was characterized by its predominant engineer species: (1) Cystoseira abies-marina, (2) a mix of gelidiales and geniculate corallines, (3) Lobophora variegata, and (4) encrusting corallines. The autonomous pH measuring systems consisted of a pH sensor; a data logger and a battery encased in a waterproof container and allowed the acquisition of high-resolution continuous pH data at each of the study sites. The pH variation observed ranged by between 0.09 and 0.24 pHNBS units. A clear daily variation in seawater pH was detected at all the studied sites (0.04–0.12 pHNBS units). Significant differences in daily pH oscillations were also observed between phytocenoses, which shows that macroalgal communities influence the seawater pH in benthic habitats. Natural oscillations in pH must be taken into account in future ocean acidification studies to put findings in perspective and for any ecological recommendations to be realistic.

Hernández C. A., Clemente S., Sangil C. & Hernández J. C., 2015. High-resolution ocean pH dynamics in four subtropical Atlantic benthic habitats. Biogeosciences Discussions 12:19481-19498. Article.

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