The impact of ocean alkalinity enhancement on marine biota offers hope for carbon dioxide removal

Marine biologists are increasingly seeking methods to mitigate anthropogenic climate interference by implementing strategies for ocean carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Ocean alkalinity enhancement parameter is an abiotic approach aimed at carbon dioxide removal. Attempts to increase the carbon dioxide uptake capacity of the ocean can be established by dispersing pulverized mineral or dissolved alkali into the ocean surface.

Nevertheless, the impact of this action remains largely unexplored. In a new report now published in Science Advances, James A. Gately and a research team in ecology and development biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, U.S., studied the impact of limestone-inspired alkalinity on the bioecology of two phytoplankton functional groups—the coccolithophore (single-celled) Emiliania huxleyi a producer of calcium carbonate, responsible for large-scale calcium carbonate production, and the diatom specimen Chaetoceros sp., a silica producer in modern oceans.

Emiliania huxleyi, a single-celled marine phytoplankton is illustrated on the cover page of the Science Advances issue, and the two taxa (coccolithophore and diatom) together showed a neutral response to limestone-inspired alkalization relative to their growth rate and elemental ratios. The team additionally noted abiotic precipitation, which removed nutrients and alkalinity from the solution to offer an understanding of biogeochemical and physiological responses to ocean alkalinity enhancement in order to provide evidence of its greater impact and its capacity to influence marine ecosystems.

Antacids for the oceans?

Ocean alkalinity enhancement is also known as ocean alkalinization and accelerated weathering; an abiotic ocean carbon dioxide removal process that facilitates large carbon storage potential with possible ecological benefits to mitigate ocean acidification. Using this technique, oceanographers aim to restore the alkalinity much like restoring alkalinity through rock weathering, which occurs naturally on Earth on geological time-scales.

The team deduce that increasing the total alkalinity via ocean alkalinity enhancement can permanently remove carbon dioxide to establish a quasi-natural method of restoring ecosystems for fragile habitats such as coral reefs affected by oceanic acidification. In this study, Gately and colleagues examined the biogeochemical and physiological response to limestone-inspired ocean alkalinity enhancement using two biogeochemically important representative species.

[You can read the original research article on the OA-ICC News Stream here.]

Thamarasee Jeewandara,, 27 June 2023. Press release.

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