Synoptic assessment of coastal total alkalinity through community science

Comprehensive sampling of the carbonate system in estuaries and coastal waters can be difficult and expensive because of the complex and heterogeneous nature of near-shore environments. We show that sample collection by community science programs is a viable strategy for expanding estuarine carbonate system monitoring and prioritizing regions for more targeted assessment. ‘Shell Day’ was a single-day regional water monitoring event coordinating coastal carbonate chemistry observations by 59 community science programs and seven research institutions in the northeastern United States, in which 410 total alkalinity (TA) samples from 86 stations were collected. Field replicates collected at both low and high tides had a mean standard deviation between replicates of 3.6 ± 0.3 µmol kg−1 (σmean ± SE, n = 145) or 0.20 ± 0.02%. This level of precision demonstrates that with adequate protocols for sample collection, handling, storage, and analysis, community science programs are able to collect TA samples leading to high-quality analyses and data. Despite correlations between salinity, temperature, and TA observed at multiple spatial scales, empirical predictions of TA had relatively high root mean square error >48 µmol kg−1. Additionally, ten stations displayed tidal variability in TA that was not likely driven by low TA freshwater inputs. As such, TA cannot be predicted accurately from salinity using a single relationship across the northeastern US region, though predictions may be viable at more localized scales where consistent freshwater and seawater endmembers can be defined. There was a high degree of geographic heterogeneity in both mean and tidal variability in TA, and this single-day snapshot sampling identified three patterns driving variation in TA, with certain locations exhibiting increased risk of acidification. The success of Shell Day implies that similar community science based events could be conducted in other regions to not only expand understanding of the coastal carbonate system, but also provide a way to inventory monitoring assets, build partnerships with stakeholders, and expand education and outreach to a broader constituency.

Synoptic assessment of coastal total alkalinity through community science

Rheuban J. E.,  Gassett P. R. McCorkle D. C., Hunt C. W., Liebman M. Bastidas C., O’Brien-Clayton K., Pimenta A. R., Silva E., Vlahos P., Woosley R. J., Ries J., Liberti C. M., Grear J., Salisbury J., Brady D. C., Guay K., LaVigne M., Strong A. L., E Stancioff E. & Turner E., 2021. Synoptic assessment of coastal total alkalinity through community science. Environmental Research Letters 16(2): 024009. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/abcb39. Article.

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