The seasonal phases of an Arctic lagoon reveal non-linear pH extremes

The western Arctic Ocean, including its shelves and coastal habitats, has become a focus in ocean acidification research over the past decade as the colder waters of the region and the reduction of sea ice appear to promote the uptake of excess atmospheric CO2. Due to seasonal sea ice coverage, high-frequency monitoring of pH or other carbonate chemistry parameters is typically limited to infrequent ship-based transects during ice-free summers. This approach has failed to capture year-round nearshore carbonate chemistry dynamics which is modulated by biological metabolism in response to abundant allochthonous organic matter to the narrow shelf of the Beaufort Sea and adjacent regions. The coastline of the Beaufort Sea comprises a series of lagoons that account for > 50 % of the land-sea interface. The lagoon ecosystems are novel features that cycle between open and closed phases (i.e., ice-free, and ice covered, respectively). In this study, we collected high-frequency pH, salinity, temperature, and PAR measurements in association with the Beaufort Lagoon Ecosystem LTER for an entire calendar year in Kaktovik Lagoon, Alaska, USA, capturing two open water phases and one closed phase. Hourly pH variability during the open water phases are some of the fastest rates reported, exceeding 0.4 units. Baseline pH varied substantially between open phase 2018 and open phase 2019 with a difference of ~ 0.2 units despite similar hourly rates of change. Salinity-pH relationships were mixed during all three phases displaying no correlation in open 2018, a negative correlation in closed 2018–2019, and positive correlation during open 2019. The high-frequency of pH variability could partially be explained by photosynthesis-respiration cycles as correlation coefficients between daily average pH and PAR were 0.46 and 0.64 for open 2018 and open 2019 phases, respectively. The estimated annual daily average CO2 efflux was 5.9 ± 19.3 mmol m−2 d−1, which is converse to the negative influx of CO2 estimated for the coastal Beaufort Sea despite exhibiting extreme variability. Considering the geomorphic differences in Beaufort Sea lagoons, further investigation is needed to assess if there are periods of the open phase in which all lagoons are sources of carbon to the atmosphere, potentially offsetting the predicted sink capacity of the greater Beaufort Sea.

Miller C. A., Bonsell C., McTigue N. D. & Kelley A. L., 2020. The seasonal phases of an Arctic lagoon reveal non-linear pH extremes. Biogeosciences Discussions. Article.

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