Biophysical feedbacks mediate carbonate chemistry in coastal ecosystems across spatiotemporal gradients

Ocean acidification (OA) projections are primarily based on open ocean environments, despite the ecological importance of coastal systems in which carbonate dynamics are fundamentally different. Using temperate tide pools as a natural laboratory, we quantified the relative contribution of community composition, ecosystem metabolism, and physical attributes to spatiotemporal variability in carbonate chemistry. We found that biological processes were the primary drivers of local pH conditions. Specifically, non-encrusting producer-dominated systems had the highest and most variable pH environments and the highest production rates, patterns that were consistent across sites spanning 11° of latitude and encompassing multiple gradients of natural variability. Furthermore, we demonstrated a biophysical feedback loop in which net community production increased pH, leading to higher net ecosystem calcification. Extreme spatiotemporal variability in pH is, thus, both impacting and driven by biological processes, indicating that shifts in community composition and ecosystem metabolism are poised to locally buffer or intensify the effects of OA.

Silbiger N. J. & Sorte C. J. B., 2018. Biophysical feedbacks mediate carbonate chemistry in coastal ecosystems across spatiotemporal gradients. Scientific Reports 8: 796. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18736-6. Article.

 

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