Tidal action and macroalgal photosynthetic activity prevent coastal acidification in an eutrophic system within a semi-desert region

Highlights

  • Macroalgal photosynthesis (MP) controls daily pH variability during low tide.
  • Environmental factors control pH variability at seasonal scale.
  • Ulva lactuca photosynthetic activity increased the pH of seawater.
  • Macrotidal action and MP prevent coastal acidification in an eutrophic system.

Abstract

Nutrient input drive macroalgal blooms and increases in photosynthetic activity in coastal ecosystems. An intense macroalgal photosynthetic activity can increase the surrounding pH and it could prevent the acidification that often follows an eutrophication process. We tested this hypothesis with field sampling and experiments in a macrotidal (up to 9 m in amplitude) coastal system within a semi-desert region with contrasting eutrophic conditions and Ulva lactuca blooms in the northern Argentinean Patagonia (San Antonio Bay). Our results indicate that daily pH variability during low tide could be controlled by the photosynthetic activity of Ulva lactuca under eutrophic conditions. At seasonal scale, the pH variations were related to environmental features, particularly seawater temperature. Both environmental (i.e. high solar radiation, negligible freshwater inputs and, large tidal action) and anthropogenic nutrient inputs into the studied area promote the Ulva lactuca blooms, which in turn increases the surrounding pH in well oxygenated seawater through the intense photosynthetic activity. Our study shows that eutrophication instead of being a driver of acidification, could contribute to its prevention in well oxygenated marine coastal systems located within semi-desert regions.

Becherucci M. E., Pereyra P., Narvarte M., Fanjul E., Iribarne O. & Martinetto P., in press. Tidal action and macroalgal photosynthetic activity prevent coastal acidification in an eutrophic system within a semi-desert region. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Article (subscription required).

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