Archive for the 'Science' Category

Investigating controls on boron isotope ratios in shallow marine carbonates

The boron isotope-pH proxy has been widely used to reconstruct past ocean pH values. In both planktic foraminifera and corals, species-specific calibrations are required in order to reconstruct absolute values of pH, due to the prevalence of so-called vital effects — physiological modification of the primary environmental signals by the calcifying organisms. Shallow marine abiotic carbonate (e.g. ooids and cements) could conceivably avoid any such calibration requirement, and therefore provide a potentially useful archive for reconstructions in deep (pre-Cenozoic) time. However, shallow marine abiotic carbonates could also be affected by local shifts in pH caused by microbial photosynthesis and respiration, something that has up to now not been fully tested. In this study, we present boron isotope measurements from shallow modern marine carbonates, from the Bahama Bank and Belize to investigate the potential of using shallow water carbonates as pH archives, and to explore the role of microbial processes in driving nominally ‘abiogenic’ carbonate deposition. For Bahama bank samples, our boron-based pH estimates derived from a range of carbonate types (i.e. ooids, peloids, hardground cements, carbonate mud, stromatolitic micrite and calcified filament micrite) are higher than the estimated modern mean-annual seawater pH values for this region. Furthermore, the majority (73%) of our marine carbonate-based pH estimates fall out of the range of the estimated pre-industrial seawater pH values for this region. In shallow sediment cores, we did not observe a correlation between measured pore water pH and boron-derived pH estimates, suggesting boron isotope variability is a depositional rather than early diagenetic signal. For Belize reef cements, conversely, the pH estimates are lower than likely in situ seawater pH at the time of cement formation. This study indicates the potential for complications when using shallow marine non-skeletal carbonates as marine pH archives. In addition, variability in δ11B based pH estimates provides additional support for the idea that photosynthetic CO2 uptake plays a significant role in driving carbonate precipitation in a wide range of shallow water carbonates.

Continue reading ‘Investigating controls on boron isotope ratios in shallow marine carbonates’

Acidification and warming affect prominent bacteria in two seasonal phytoplankton bloom mesocosms

In contrast to clear stimulatory effects of rising temperature, recent studies of the effects of CO2 on planktonic bacteria have reported conflicting results. To better understand the potential impact of predicted climate scenarios on the development and performance of bacterial communities, we performed bifactorial mesocosm experiments (pCO2 and temperature) with Baltic Sea water, during a diatom dominated bloom in autumn and a mixed phytoplankton bloom in summer. The development of bacterial community composition (BCC) followed well-known algal bloom dynamics. A principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) of bacterial OTUs (operational taxonomic units) revealed that phytoplankton succession and temperature were the major variables structuring the bacterial community whereas the impact of pCO2 was weak. Prokaryotic abundance and carbon production, and organic matter concentration and composition were partly affected by temperature but not by increased pCO2. However, pCO2 did have significant and potentially direct effects on the relative abundance of several dominant OTUs; in some cases, these effects were accompanied by an antagonistic impact of temperature. Our results suggest the necessity of high-resolution BCC analyses and statistical analyses at the OTU level to detect the strong impact of CO2 on specific bacterial groups, which in turn might also influence specific organic matter degradation processes.

Continue reading ‘Acidification and warming affect prominent bacteria in two seasonal phytoplankton bloom mesocosms’

An overview upon CO₂ – possible source of ocean acidification

The interest upon CO₂ concentrations introduced in the atmosphere by human activities enhances year after year because of the consequences on the atmosphere, land and oceans. Many studies showed that changes in the ocean carbon cycle are due to the absorption of anthropogenic CO₂ from the atmosphere. The increase of CO₂ has been correlated with the pH falling of seawaters, promoting a critical process known as acidification. Ocean acidification could modify many biochemical cycles and functioning of marine organisms. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the chemistry behaviour of CO₂ on seawaters. Once dissolved in seawater, CO₂ reacts with water to form carbonic acid (H₂CO₃). Ocean stores CO₂ as dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) which remains in the form of dissolved CO₂ and H₂CO₃, while the rest is in the form of HCO₃⁻ and CO₃²⁻. Adding CO₂ to seawater, thus increase HCO₃⁻ that bring about a decrease in ocean water pH by increasing H+ concentration.

Continue reading ‘An overview upon CO₂ – possible source of ocean acidification’

Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems

The deep sea encompasses the largest ecosystems on Earth. Although poorly known, deep seafloor ecosystems provide services that are vitally important to the entire ocean and biosphere. Rising atmospheric greenhouse gases are bringing about significant changes in the environmental properties of the ocean realm in terms of water column oxygenation, temperature, pH and food supply, with concomitant impacts on deep-sea ecosystems. Projections suggest that abyssal (3000–6000 m) ocean temperatures could increase by 1°C over the next 84 years, while abyssal seafloor habitats under areas of deep-water formation may experience reductions in water column oxygen concentrations by as much as 0.03 mL L–1 by 2100. Bathyal depths (200–3000 m) worldwide will undergo the most significant reductions in pH in all oceans by the year 2100 (0.29 to 0.37 pH units). O2 concentrations will also decline in the bathyal NE Pacific and Southern Oceans, with losses up to 3.7% or more, especially at intermediate depths. Another important environmental parameter, the flux of particulate organic matter to the seafloor, is likely to decline significantly in most oceans, most notably in the abyssal and bathyal Indian Ocean where it is predicted to decrease by 40–55% by the end of the century. Unfortunately, how these major changes will affect deep-seafloor ecosystems is, in some cases, very poorly understood. In this paper, we provide a detailed overview of the impacts of these changing environmental parameters on deep-seafloor ecosystems that will most likely be seen by 2100 in continental margin, abyssal and polar settings. We also consider how these changes may combine with other anthropogenic stressors (e.g., fishing, mineral mining, oil and gas extraction) to further impact deep-seafloor ecosystems and discuss the possible societal implications.

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Southern Ocean phytoplankton in a changing climate

Phytoplankton are the base of the Antarctic food web, sustain the wealth and diversity of life for which Antarctica is renowned, and play a critical role in biogeochemical cycles that mediate global climate. Over the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean (SO), the climate is variously predicted to experience increased warming, strengthening wind, acidification, shallowing mixed layer depths, increased light (and UV), changes in upwelling and nutrient replenishment, declining sea ice, reduced salinity, and the southward migration of ocean fronts. These changes are expected to alter the structure and function of phytoplankton communities in the SO. The diverse environments contained within the vast expanse of the SO will be impacted differently by climate change; causing the identity and the magnitude of environmental factors driving biotic change to vary within and among bioregions. Predicting the net effect of multiple climate-induced stressors over a range of environments is complex. Yet understanding the response of SO phytoplankton to climate change is vital if we are to predict the future state/s of the ecosystem, estimate the impacts on fisheries and endangered species, and accurately predict the effects of physical and biotic change in the SO on global climate. This review looks at the major environmental factors that define the structure and function of phytoplankton communities in the SO, examines the forecast changes in the SO environment, predicts the likely effect of these changes on phytoplankton, and considers the ramifications for trophodynamics and feedbacks to global climate change. Predictions strongly suggest that all regions of the SO will experience changes in phytoplankton productivity and community composition with climate change. The nature, and even the sign, of these changes varies within and among regions and will depend upon the magnitude and sequence in which these environmental changes are imposed. It is likely that predicted changes to phytoplankton communities will affect SO biogeochemistry, carbon export, and nutrition for higher trophic levels.

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Spatial and temporal controls on the inorganic carbon system of the Western Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean plays a critical role in the global carbon cycle. It is believed to be particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change, is already undergoing dramatic changes, and is therefore important to study in that context. Most studies of the inorganic carbon system in the Western Arctic focus on hydrographic datasets from summer and/or fall (July-October), and do not consider the full response of the system to the timing of ice retreat, organic matter production and remineralization, and ice advance. Here we present the first dataset to investigate the spatial and temporal controls on the inorganic carbon system from early spring (pre-phytoplankton), late spring (initial phytoplankton bloom), summer (post-bloom), and fall in 2014. Our results suggest that the timing of ice retreat has important implications for the length of the phytoplankton growing season, and thus influences the magnitude of biological carbon cycling. We extend our analysis to include high-resolution temporal estimates of air-sea CO2 flux, and estimate a total annual CO2 uptake in the Chukchi Sea of ~7.7 Tg C. This is the first dataset to evaluate the importance of different seasonal observations within one year on the annual uptake of CO2 in the western Arctic Ocean. Our results show that extrapolations from one observational dataset result in large over- or underestimations of annual CO2 flux.

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Experimental evidence of formation of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and POC export provoked by dust addition under current and high pCO2 conditions

The evolution of organic carbon export to the deep ocean, under anthropogenic forcing such as ocean warming and acidification, needs to be investigated in order to evaluate potential positive or negative feedbacks on atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and therefore on climate. As such, modifications of aggregation processes driven by transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) formation have the potential to affect carbon export. The objectives of this study were to experimentally assess the dynamics of organic matter, after the simulation of a Saharan dust deposition event, through the measurement over one week of TEP abundance and size, and to evaluate the effects of ocean acidification on TEP formation and carbon export following a dust deposition event. Three experiments were performed in the laboratory using 300 L tanks filled with filtered seawater collected in the Mediterranean Sea, during two ‘no bloom’ periods (spring at the start of the stratification period and autumn at the end of this stratification period) and during the winter bloom period. For each experiment, one of the two tanks was acidified to reach pH conditions slightly below values projected for 2100 (~ 7.6–7.8). In both tanks, a dust deposition event of 10 g m-2 was simulated at the surface. Our results suggest that Saharan dust deposition triggered the abiotic formation of TEP, leading to the formation of organic-mineral aggregates. The amount of particulate organic carbon (POC) exported was proportional to the flux of lithogenic particles to the sediment traps. Depending on the season, the POC flux following artificial dust deposition ranged between 38 and 90 mg m-2 over six experimental days. Such variability is likely linked to the seasonal differences in the quality and quantity of TEP-precursors initially present in seawater. Finally, these export fluxes were not significantly different at the completion of the three experiments between the two pH conditions.

Continue reading ‘Experimental evidence of formation of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and POC export provoked by dust addition under current and high pCO2 conditions’


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