Evaluating carbonate system algorithms in a nearshore system: does total alkalinity matter?

Ocean acidification is a threat to many marine organisms, especially those that use calcium carbonate to form their shells and skeletons. The ability to accurately measure the carbonate system is the first step in characterizing the drivers behind this threat. Due to logistical realities, regular carbonate system sampling is not possible in many nearshore ocean habitats, particularly in remote, difficult-to-access locations. The ability to autonomously measure the carbonate system in situ relieves many of the logistical challenges; however, it is not always possible to measure the two required carbonate parameters autonomously. Observed relationships between sea surface salinity and total alkalinity can frequently provide a second carbonate parameter thus allowing for the calculation of the entire carbonate system. Here, we assessed the rigor of estimating total alkalinity from salinity at a depth <15 m by routinely sampling water from a pier in southern California for several carbonate system parameters. Carbonate system parameters based on measured values were compared with those based on estimated TA values. Total alkalinity was not predictable from salinity or from a combination of salinity and temperature at this site. However, dissolved inorganic carbon and the calcium carbonate saturation state of these nearshore surface waters could both be estimated within on average 5% of measured values using measured pH and salinity-derived or regionally averaged total alkalinity. Thus we find that the autonomous measurement of pH and salinity can be used to monitor trends in coastal changes in DIC and saturation state and be a useful method for high-frequency, long-term monitoring of ocean acidification.

Jones J. M., Sweet J., Brzezinski M. A., McNair H. M. & Passow U., 2016. Evaluating carbonate system algorithms in a nearshore system: does total alkalinity matter?? PLoS ONE 11(11):e0165191. Article.

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