The role of soils in the regulation of ocean acidification

Soils play an important role in mediating chemical weathering reactions and carbon transfer from the land to the ocean. Proposals to increase the contribution of alkalinity to the oceans through ‘enhanced weathering’ as a means to help prevent climate change are gaining increasing attention. This would augment the existing connection between the biogeochemical function of soils and alkalinity levels in the ocean. The feasibility of enhanced weathering depends on the combined influence of what minerals are added to soils, the formation of secondary minerals in soils and the drainage regime, and the partial pressure of respired CO2 around the dissolving mineral. Increasing the alkalinity levels in the ocean through enhanced weathering could help to ameliorate the effects of ocean acidification in two ways. First, enhanced weathering would slightly elevate the pH of drainage waters, and the receiving coastal waters. The elevated pH would result in an increase in carbonate mineral saturation states, and a partial reversal in the effects of elevated CO2. Second, the increase in alkalinity would help to replenish the ocean’s buffering capacity by maintaining the ‘Revelle Factor’, making the oceans more resilient to further CO2 emissions. However, there is limited research on the downstream and oceanic impacts of enhanced weathering on which to base deployment decisions.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘The role of soils in delivering Nature’s Contributions to People’.

Renforth P. & Campbell J. S., 2021. The role of soils in the regulation of ocean acidification. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 376(1834): 20200174. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2020.0174. Article.

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