Impacts of seawater saturation state (ΩA = 0.4 – 4.6) and temperature (10, 25 °C) on the dissolution kinetics of whole-shell biogenic carbonates

Anthropogenic increase of atmospheric pCO2 since the Industrial Revolution has caused seawater pH to decrease and seawater temperatures to increase—trends that are expected to continue into the foreseeable future. Myriad experimental studies have investigated the impacts of ocean acidification and warming on marine calcifiers’ ability to build protective shells and skeletons. No studies, however, have investigated the combined impacts of ocean acidification and warming on the whole-shell dissolution kinetics of biogenic carbonates. Here, we present the results of experiments designed to investigate the effects of seawater saturation state (ΩA = 0.4 – 4.6) and temperature (10, 25 °C) on gross rates of whole-shell dissolution for ten species of benthic marine calcifiers: the oyster Crassostrea virginicus, the ivory barnacle Balanus eburneus, the blue mussel Mytilus edulis, the conch Strombus alatus, the tropical coral Siderastrea siderea, the temperate coral Oculina arbuscula, the hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria, the soft clam Mya arenaria, the branching bryozoan Schizoporella errata, and the coralline red alga Neogoniolithon sp. These experiments confirm that dissolution rates of whole-shell biogenic carbonates decrease with calcium carbonate (CaCO3) saturation state, increase with temperature, and vary predictably with respect to the relative solubility of the calcifiers’ polymorph mineralogy [high-Mg calcite (mol% Mg > 4) > aragonite > low-Mg calcite (mol% Mg < 4)], consistent with prior studies on sedimentary and inorganic carbonates. Furthermore, the severity of the temperature effects on gross dissolution rates also varied with respect to carbonate polymorph solubility, with warming (10 – 25 °C) exerting the greatest effect on biogenic high-Mg calcite, an intermediate effect on biogenic aragonite, and the least effect on biogenic low-Mg calcite. These results indicate that both ocean acidification and warming will lead to increased dissolution of biogenic carbonates in future oceans, with shells/skeletons composed of the more soluble polymorphs of CaCO3 being the most vulnerable to these stressors. The effects of saturation state and temperature on gross shell dissolution rate were modelled with an exponential asymptotic function (y = B0 – B2· eB1·x) that appeals to the general Arrhenius-derived rate equation for mineral dissolution [r = (C · e-Ea/RT)(1-Ω)n]. Although the dissolution curves for the investigated biogenic CaCO3 exhibited exponential asymptotic trends similar to those of inorganic CaCO3, the observation that gross dissolution of whole-shell biogenic CaCO3 occurred (albeit at lower rates) even in treatments that were oversaturated (Ω > 1) with respect to both aragonite and calcite reveals fundamental differences between the dissolution kinetics of whole-shell CaCO3 and inorganic CaCO3. Thus, applying stoichiometric solubility products derived for inorganic CaCO3 to model gross dissolution of biogenic carbonates may substantially underestimate the impacts of ocean acidification on net calcification (gross calcification minus gross dissolution) of systems ranging in scale from individual organisms to entire ecosystems (i.e., net ecosystem calcification). Finally, these experiments permit rough estimation of the impact of CO2-induced ocean acidification on the gross calcification rates of various marine calcifiers, calculated as the difference between net calcification rates derived empirically in prior studies and gross dissolution rates derived from the present study. Organisms’ gross calcification responses to acidification were generally less severe than their net calcification response patterns, with aragonite mollusks (bivalves, gastropods) exhibiting the most negative gross calcification response to acidification, and photosynthesizing organisms, including corals and coralline red algae, exhibiting relative resilience.

Ries J. B., Ghazaleh M. N., Connolly B., Westfield I. & Castillo K. D., in press. Impacts of seawater saturation state (ΩA = 0.4 – 4.6) and temperature (10, 25 °C) on the dissolution kinetics of whole-shell biogenic carbonates. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Article (subscription required).

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