Low-molecular-weight organic acids as important factors impacting on seawater acidification: a case study in the Jiaozhou Bay, China

Highlights

• LMWOAs are abundant in some coastal area and seriously enhance the ocean acidification.

• Compare to CO2 system, every 10 μmol·L−1 LMWOAs may cause 0.02-unit pH decrease.

• In the Jiaozhou Bay, seawater pH decreased 0.103 in seven years and contribution of LMWOAs was 83%.

• Two models were established to estimate the influence of LMWOAs on the coastal seawater pH.

Abstract

Low-molecular-weight organic acids (LMWOAs) are ubiquitous water-soluble organic compounds with mass production worldwide, but their influence on coastal marine environments is still lack of consideration. In this study, we select a typical nearshore bay – the Jiaozhou Bay, which is surrounded by Qingdao — a city with modern manufacture, agriculture, aquaculture and service industry, as study area, to investigate the effect of LMWOAs on the nearshore marine environment, and their impact on seawater acidification in coastal areas. During Sep. 2016 to Aug. 2017, we identified three different LMWOAs – acetic acid (AA), formic acid (FA) and lactic acid (LA), with average concentrations of 46.7, 13.9 and 1.4 μmol·L−1 in the seawater of the bay, respectively. Due to the establishment of the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge, the seawater exchange capacity was weakened and thereby the concentration and stocks of AA and FA increased. As weak acids in seawater, the influence of LMWOAs on the seawater acidification of the Jiaozhou Bay was investigated. LMWOAs had significant impact on seawater pH and every 10 μmol·L−1 LMWOA caused an average of 0.02 pH unit decrease. From 2010 to 2017, pH value in the seawater of the bay decreased by about 0.103 and LMWOAs contributed about 83% of its decrease. Besides, two models were established to estimate the influence of LMWOAs on the seawater pH by applying the data set of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), total alkalinity (TA) and LMWOAs. The results showed that LMWOAs could enhance acidification of coastal seawater. Considering the importance of LMWOAs in seawater, it is necessary to evaluate their future changes in coastal marine environments. This study initiated a way to identify the source of LMWOAs in seawater and to evaluate their contribution to seawater acidification, and also provided a series of (Sutton et al., 2014) for future study on LMWOAs in coastal environment.

Liang H., Lyu L., Sun C., Ding H., Wurgaft E. & Yang G., in press. Low-molecular-weight organic acids as important factors impacting on seawater acidification: a case study in the Jiaozhou Bay, China. Science of The Total Environment. Article (subscription required).

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