The potential of 230Th for detection of ocean acidification impacts on pelagic carbonate production (update)

Concentrations of dissolved 230Th in the ocean water column increase with depth due to scavenging and downward particle flux. Due to the 230Th scavenging process, any change in the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) fraction of the marine particle flux due to changes in biological CaCO3 hard-shell production as a consequence of progressing ocean acidification would be reflected in the dissolved 230Th activity. Our prognostic simulations with a biogeochemical ocean general circulation model using different scenarios for the reduction of CaCO3 production under ocean acidification and different greenhouse gas emission scenarios – the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) 8.5 to 2.6 – reveal the potential for deep 230Th measurements to detect reduced CaCO3 production at the sea surface. The time of emergence of an acidification-induced signal on dissolved 230Th is of the same order of magnitude as for alkalinity measurements. Interannual and decadal variability in factors other than a reduction in CaCO3 hard-shell production may mask the ocean-acidification-induced signal in dissolved 230Th and make detection of the pure CaCO3-induced signal more difficult so that only really strong changes in marine CaCO3 export would be unambiguously identifiable soon. Nevertheless, the impacts of changes in CaCO3 export production on marine 230Th are stronger than those for changes in POC (particulate organic carbon) or clay fluxes.

Heinze C., Ilyina T. & Gehlen M., 2018. The potential of 230Th for detection of ocean acidification impacts on pelagic carbonate production. Biogeosciences 15: 3521-3539. Article.

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