Contrasting marine carbonate systems in two fjords in British Columbia, Canada: seawater buffering capacity and the response to anthropogenic CO2 invasion

The carbonate system in two contrasting fjords, Rivers Inlet and Bute Inlet, on the coast of British Columbia, Canada, was evaluated to characterize the mechanisms driving carbonate chemistry dynamics and assess the impact of anthropogenic carbon. Differences in the character of deep water exchange between these fjords were inferred from their degree of exposure to continental shelf water and their salinity relationships with total alkalinity and total dissolved inorganic carbon, which determined seawater buffering capacity. Seawater buffering capacity differed between fjords and resulted in distinct carbonate system characteristics with implications on calcium carbonate saturation states and sensitivity to increasing anthropogenic carbon inputs. Saturation states of both aragonite and calcite mineral phases of calcium carbonate were seasonally at or below saturation throughout the entire water column in Bute Inlet, while only aragonite was seasonally under-saturated in portions of the water column in Rivers Inlet. The mean annual saturation states of aragonite in Rivers Inlet and calcite in Bute Inlet deep water layers have declined to below saturation within the last several decades due to anthropogenic carbon accumulation, and similar declines to undersaturation are projected in their surface layers as anthropogenic carbon continues to accumulate. This study demonstrates that the degree of fjord water exposure to open shelf water influences the uptake and sensitivity to anthropogenic carbon through processes affecting seawater buffering capacity, and that reduced uptake but greater sensitivity occurs where distance to ocean source waters and freshwater dilution are greater.

Hare A., Evans W., Pocock K., Weekes C. & Gimenez I., 2020. Contrasting marine carbonate systems in two fjords in British Columbia, Canada: Seawater buffering capacity and the response to anthropogenic CO2 invasion. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0238432. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0238432. Article.


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