The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified ocean acidification as a critical threat to marine and estuarine species in ocean and coastal ecosystems around the world. However, seagrasses are projected to benefit from elevated atmospheric pCO2, are capable of increasing seawater pH and carbonate mineral saturation states through photosynthesis, and may help buffer against the chemical impacts of ocean acidification. Additionally, dissolution of carbonate sediments may also provide a mechanism for buffering seawater pH. Long-term water quality monitoring data from the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County indicates that seawater pH has risen since the 1980’s as seagrass beds have continued to recover since that time. We examined the role of seagrass beds in maintaining and elevating pH and carbonate mineral saturation state in northern and southern Tampa Bay where the percent of carbonate sediments is low (<3%) and high (>40%), respectively. Basic water quality and carbonate system parameters (including pH, total alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon, partial pressure of CO2, and carbonate mineral saturation state) were measured over diurnal time periods along transects (50-100 m) including dense and sparse Thalassia testudinum. seagrass beds, deep edge seagrass, and adjacent bare sand bottom. Seagrass density and productivity, sediment composition and hydrodynamic parameters were also measured, concurrently. Results indicate that seagrass beds locally elevate pH by up to 0.5 pH unit and double carbonate mineral saturation states relative to bare sand habitats. Thus, seagrass beds in Tampa Bay may provide refuge for marine organisms from the impacts of ocean acidification.
Yates K. K., Moyer R. P., Moore C., Tomasko D., Smiley N., Torres-Garcia L., Powell C. E., Chappel A. R. & Bociu I., 2017. Ocean acidification buffering effects of seagrass in Tampa Bay. Research paper, 12 p. Paper.