The interface between land and sea is a key environment for biogeochemical carbon cycling, yet these dynamic environments are traditionally under sampled. Logistical limitations have historically precluded a comprehensive understanding of coastal zone processes, including ocean acidification. Using sensors on autonomous platforms is a promising approach to enhance data collection in these environments. Here, we evaluate the use of an autonomous surface vehicle (ASV), the C-Worker 4 (CW4), equipped with pH and pCO2 sensors and with the capacity to mount additional sensors for up to 10 other parameters, for the collection of high-resolution data in shallow coastal environments. We deployed the CW4 on two occasions in Belizean coastal waters for 2.5 and 4 days, demonstrating its capability for high-resolution spatial mapping of surface coastal biogeochemistry. This enabled the characterisation of small-scale variability and the identification of sources of low pH/high pCO2 waters as well as identifying potential controls on coastal pH. We demonstrated the capabilities of the CW4 in both pre-planned “autonomous” mission mode and remote “manually” operated mode. After documenting platform behaviour, we provide recommendations for further usage, such as the ideal mode of operation for better quality pH data, e.g., using constant speed. The CW4 has a high power supply capacity, which permits the deployment of multiple sensors sampling concurrently, a shallow draught, and is highly controllable and manoeuvrable. This makes it a highly suitable tool for observing and characterising the carbonate system alongside identifying potential drivers and controls in shallow coastal regions.
Cryer S., Carvalho F., Wood T., Strong J. A., Brown P., Loucaides S., Young A., Sanders R. & Evans C., 2020. Evaluating the sensor-equipped autonomous surface vehicle C-Worker 4 as a tool for identifying coastal ocean acidification and changes in carbonate chemistry. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 8 (11): 939. doi: 10.3390/jmse8110939. Article.