Seasonal changes in seawater calcium and alkalinity in the Sargasso Sea and across the Bermuda carbonate platform

Ocean acidification may shift coral reefs from a state of net ecosystem calcification (+NEC) to net ecosystem dissolution (–NEC). Changes in NEC are typically inferred from either measured or calculated total alkalinity (TA) or the dissolved calcium (Ca) to salinity ratio relative to a reference value. The alkalinity anomaly technique has historically been the primary method to estimate NEC due to the greater analytical challenges and uncertainty associated with dissolved Ca measurements in seawater. However, this method assumes that changes in salinity-normalized TA are exclusively the result of calcification and dissolution processes. In many cases, this assumption is valid, but in some environments additional processes can significantly influence seawater TA (e.g., nutrient fluxes, redox processes). Seawater Ca is unaffected or less sensitive to these processes, and therefore, Ca and TA anomalies can be used to estimate absolute or relative changes in NEC with greater confidence. Here, we present a two-year time series of monthly seawater Ca and TA measurements across the Bermuda carbonate platform and the nearby Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) location offshore. High precision Ca measurements (±6 μmol kg−1) were conducted using an improved spectrophotometric titration system and showed mostly good agreement with changes in TA over the same spatial and temporal scales. Ca and TA measurements across the Bermuda platform showed seasonal fluctuations relative to offshore waters, with +NEC during summer months and near-zero or possible –NEC (net dissolution) during winter months. These seasonal patterns were most pronounced at the inshore locations with the longest residence times (10+ days), which allow stronger biogeochemical signals to develop relative to the offshore source water. Although obtaining high accuracy and precision Ca measurements remains challenging, parallel measurements of Ca and TA from both inshore and offshore waters over a multi-annual timescale strengthen the validity of predictions for when, where, and why a reef system, such as the Bermuda platform, may shift from +NEC to –NEC.

Griffin A. J., Anderson Z., Ballard J., Bates N. R., Garley R., Johnson R., Martz T., Pacheco F., Takeshita Y. & Andersson A. J., 2021. Seasonal changes in seawater calcium and alkalinity in the Sargasso Sea and across the Bermuda carbonate platform. Marine Chemistry: 104064. doi: 10.1016/j.marchem.2021.104064. Article (subscription required).

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: