Temporal changes in seawater carbonate chemistry and carbon export from a Southern California estuary

Estuaries are important subcomponents of the coastal ocean, but knowledge about the temporal and spatial variability of their carbonate chemistry, as well as their contribution to coastal and global carbon fluxes, are limited. In the present study, we measured the temporal and spatial variability of biogeochemical parameters in a saltmarsh estuary in Southern California, the San Dieguito Lagoon (SDL). We also estimated the flux of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total organic carbon (TOC) to the adjacent coastal ocean over diel and seasonal timescales. The combined net flux of DIC and TOC (FDIC + TOC) to the ocean during outgoing tides ranged from − 1.8±0.5 × 103 to 9.5±0.7 × 103 mol C h−1 during baseline conditions. Based on these fluxes, a rough estimate of the net annual export of DIC and TOC totaled 10±4 × 106 mol C year−1. Following a major rain event (36 mm rain in 3 days), FDIC + TOC increased and reached values as high as 29.0 ± 0.7 × 103 mol C h−1. Assuming a hypothetical scenario of three similar storm events in a year, our annual net flux estimate more than doubled to 25 ± 4 × 106 mol C year−1. These findings highlight the importance of assessing coastal carbon fluxes on different timescales and incorporating event scale variations in these assessments. Furthermore, for most of the observations elevated levels of total alkalinity (TA) and pH were observed at the estuary mouth relative to the coastal ocean. This suggests that SDL partly buffers against acidification of adjacent coastal surface waters, although the spatial extent of this buffering is likely small.

Paulsen M.-L., Andersson A. J., Aluwihare L., Cyronak T., D’Angelo S., Davidson C., Elwany H., Giddings S. N., Page H. N., Porrachia M. & Schroeter S., in press. Temporal changes in seawater carbonate chemistry and carbon export from a Southern California estuary. Estuaries and CoastsArticle (subscription required).

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