Seasonal controls of the carbon biogeochemistry of a fringing coral reef in the Gulf of California, Mexico

The surface of the ocean has absorbed one-third of the CO2gas that has been released by anthropogenic activities, which has resulted in a reduction in pH and the aragonite saturation state (Ωara) with potential negative impacts in calcifying organisms, such as corals. To evaluate these effects, the natural variability present must first be understood, including that of processes that operate at diurnal, seasonal, and interannual frequencies. The objective of this study was to determine the influence of physical and biogeochemical processes on the seasonal variability of the CO2-system in a fringe coral reef of the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP). To achieve this, a SeapHOx sensor was installed to measure temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and pHTot at 30-min intervals from November 2013 (early winter) to July 2014 (early summer). The recorded temperature and salinity data fed a mixing model to identify the water masses present in the reef. We show how physical and biogeochemical oceanic processes influence and control the variability of the carbonate system. The presence of water masses with different carbon chemistries responded to two scenarios: (1) seasonal circulation on the order of months and (2) an intermittence between water masses related to mesoscale structures (eddies) on the order of weeks. A low-pH and Ωara condition was detected during summer, which was related to the presence of warm and respired Tropical Surface Water. The broadest changes in Ωara were the result of physical processes (winter ΔΩara = 0.14 and summer ΔΩara = 0.34 units) and corresponded to the transition between water masses with different carbon-biogeochemistry signals. Our results suggest that the Cabo Pulmo coral community develops in an environment with a wide range of pH and Ωara conditions and that seasonal changes are controlled by open ocean carbon biogeochemistry.

Norzagaray C. O., Hernández-Ayón J. M., Castro R., Calderón-Aguilera L. E., Martz T., Valdivieso-Ojeda J. A. & Lara-Lara R., in press. Seasonal controls of the carbon biogeochemistry of a fringing coral reef in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Continental Shelf Research. Article (subscription required).

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