Seasonal and spatial controls on the eutrophication-induced acidification in the Pearl River Estuary


Our understanding of eutrophication-induced acidification in estuaries and coastal oceans is complicated by the seasonally and spatially changing interactions between physical and biochemical drivers. By combining the conservative mixing method and a physical-biogeochemical model, we present the seasonal and spatial dynamical analysis of eutrophication-induced acidification in the Pearl River Estuary in the northern South China Sea. In summer, the widespread eutrophication-induced acidification is regulated by two distinct physical drivers, which are the strengthened stratification in the hypoxia zone and the high turbidity in the Lingdingyang Bay. In the hypoxia zone, eutrophication-induced acidification is controlled by the combined effect of benthic remineralization and stratification, while it is dominantly regulated by local biochemical processes (nitrification and respiration) of the whole water column in other regions of the estuary. In winter with the enhanced vertical mixing, the eutrophication-induced acidification is still active in the Lingdingyang Bay, and its strength has largely decreased compared with summer condition. While for the hypoxia zone, the eutrophication-induced acidification peaks in summer and disappears in winter.

Plain Language Summary

Eutrophication in estuaries has accelerated the ocean acidification, which induced a negative impact on marine ecosystem. In the estuary, physical and biochemical processes lead to difficulties in understanding and evaluating the impact of eutrophication-induced acidification. High-resolution and coupled oceanographic models can reproduce the biogeochemical cycles in the marine system and present an integrated framework to understand ocean acidification. We revealed two distinct types of eutrophication-induced acidification in the estuary by using an oceanographic model. The model results show that these two types of eutrophication-induced acidification are regulated by different physical processes that are water stratification and turbidity, which result in their unique seasonal evolution patterns.

Liang B., Xiu P., Hu, J., & Li S., 2021. Seasonal and spatial controls on the eutrophication-induced acidification in the Pearl River Estuary. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 126(5): e2020JC017107. doi: 10.1029/2020JC017107. Article.

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