Seawater acidification and anthropogenic carbon distribution on the continental shelf and slope of the western South Atlantic Ocean

Highlights

• We have measured hydrographic and carbonate system parameters in the western South Atlantic Ocean (WSAO).
• AT and CT are governed by calcification/dissolution and dilution/evaporation processes in the WSAO.
• Cant has already invaded the central and intermediate layers in the WSAO.
• The acidification of SACW and AAIW resulted in long-term pH changes of −0.17 ± 0.07 and −0.10 ± 0.06, respectively

Abstract

Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution have led to increases in the flux of CO2 into the oceans. A large fraction of this increased flux occurs due to anthropogenic carbon (Cant), i.e., the excess carbon released by human activities. The oceans take up large amounts of Cant, and this process likely affects calcifying organisms and the formation and dissolution of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). In this study, we measured hydrographic and carbonate system parameters in the western South Atlantic Ocean (WSAO). This region is key for understanding climate issues; however, it remains understudied, especially regarding the drivers of ocean acidification and its effects on marine organisms and ecosystems. Using novel data collected in this undersampled area of the global ocean, we (i) determined values of the marine carbonate system parameters and (ii) characterized the seawater acidification state along the western boundary current off the southeastern and southern coasts of Brazil. Specifically, we measured total alkalinity (AT) and pH and applied the TrOCA approach (to derive the Cant storage in the water masses) in the study area. Our results show that (i) AT and the dissolved inorganic carbon distribution in the study region are governed by calcification/dissolution and dilution/evaporation processes and that (ii) Cant is present in the central and intermediate water masses at an average concentration (± method precision) of 75.0 ± 6.6 μmol kg−1 and at depths of up to ~1000 m. The highest concentrations are observed in the lower levels of the Tropical Water (TW), although we cannot exclude an overestimated Cant concentration in this layer, and the South Atlantic Central Water (SACW). These findings suggest that cross-shelf processes likely contribute to increased Cant along western boundary current systems. The storage of Cant in the SACW and the Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) has led to long-term pH decreases of −0.17 ± 0.07 and −0.10 ± 0.06 pH units, respectively.

de Carvalho-Borges M., Orselli I. B. M.,  de C. Ferreira M. L. & Kerr R., in press. Seawater acidification and anthropogenic carbon distribution on the continental shelf and slope of the western South Atlantic Ocean. Journal of Marine Systems. Article (subscription required).

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