Posts Tagged 'biogeochemistry'

A shift in the mechanism of CO2 uptake in the Southern Ocean under high emission-scenario

The Southern Ocean is a major region of ocean carbon uptake, but its future changes remain uncertain under climate warming. Here we show the projected shift in the Southern Ocean CO2 sink using a suite of Earth System Models, revealing changes in the mechanism, position and seasonality of the carbon uptake. Dominant CO2 uptake shifts from the Subtropical to the Antarctic region under the high-emission scenario by the end of the 21st century. The warming-driven sea-ice melt, increased ocean stratification, mixed layer shoaling, and a weaker vertical carbon gradient will together reduce the winter outgassing in the future, which will trigger the switch from mixing-driven outgassing to solubility-driven uptake in the Antarctic region during the winter season. The future Southern Ocean carbon sink will be poleward-shifted, operating in a hybrid mode between biologically-driven summertime and solubility-driven wintertime uptake with further amplification of biological uptake by the increasing Revelle Factor.

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Ocean acidification increases inorganic carbon over organic carbon in shrimp’s exoskeleton


  • PIC: POC ratio in shrimps’ exoskeleton may increase under future OA.
  • Hyper-calcification and increased respiration are possible in shrimps under OA releasing more CO2 into the water.
  • Increased PIC: POC ratio may impact the ecosystem functions as well as the carbon cycle.


Ocean acidification (OA) may either increase or have a neutral effect on the calcification in shrimp’s exoskeleton. However, investigations on changes in the carbon composition of shrimp’s exoskeletons under OA are lacking. We exposed juvenile Pacific white shrimps to target pHs of 8.0, 7.9, and 7.6 for 100 days to evaluate changes in carapace thickness, total carbon (TC), particulate organic carbon (POC), particulate inorganic carbon (PIC), calcium, and magnesium concentrations in their exoskeletons. The PIC: POC ratio of shrimp in pH 7.6 treatment was significantly higher by 175 % as compared to pH 8.0 treatment. Thickness and Ca% in pH 7.6 treatment were significantly higher as compared to pH 8.0 treatment (90 % and 65 %, respectively). This is the first direct evidence of an increased PIC: POC ratio in shrimp exoskeletons under OA. In the future, such changes in carbon composition may affect the shrimp population, ecosystem functions, and regional carbon cycle.

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Atmospheric carbon dioxide and changing ocean chemistry

They call it life, we call it pollution” is an infamous quote which ignores many facts about why carbon dioxide (CO2) poses a significant problem for the ocean. But before we get to this, let’s start at the beginning. All organisms on Earth require a particular set of elements for growth. In the case of plants, these elements are needed to synthesise organic matter in a process called primary production via photosynthesis, and in the case of animals, these elements are directly assimilated by either consuming plant material or by preying on other animals. In this respect, one of the key elements is carbon. Being the molecular backbone for a number of vital organic compounds such as sugars, proteins and nucleic acids (containing genetic information), carbon can be considered as the building block of life.

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Calcium isotopes reveal shelf acidification on southern Neotethyan margin during the Smithian-Spathian boundary cooling event

The Smithian-Spathian transition of the late Early Triassic was a critical period of environmental and biological upheavals, following the end-Permian mass extinction. Changes in carbonate deposition during this period have been attributed to intensified upwelling along shelf margins, but relevant studies are scarce. Here, we present calcium isotopes of bulk marine carbonate (δ44/40Cacarb) from a Smithian–Spathian boundary (SSB) succession (Guryul Ravine section, Kashmir) on the southern margin of the Neo-Tethys. Our smoothed δ44/40Cacarb curve reveals a ~ 0.2‰ negative shift (from ~ − 1.1‰ to ~ − 1.3‰) across the SSB, concurrent with a ~ +10‰ shift in δ13Ccarb. While increased Ca isotopic fractionation could play a role, we specifically examine potential impacts due to changes in marine Ca fluxes. Using a Ca-cycle mass balance model, we explore scenarios of decreased carbonate burial flux (Fcarb), decreased riverine flux (Friv), and a combination of these processes. The modeling suggest that a pulse decrease in Fcarb by 40% over ~0.06 Myr match the negative shift in δ44/40Cacarb at Guryul Ravine. We infer that this decrease was likely related to intensified upwelling of acidic deep seawater due to invigorated global-oceanic circulation during the SSB cooling event. We suggest that the regionally diverse excursions in δ44/40Cacarb in the Tethyan region could be attributed to spatially varied upwellings in the shelf margin. The upwelling of acidic and anoxic deep seawater may have driven the second-order extinction of ammonoids and conodonts at the beginning of the SSB cooling event.

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Light, ammonium, pH, and phytoplankton competition as environmental factors controlling nitrification

The biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen (N) plays a critical role in supporting marine ecosystems and controlling primary production. Nitrification, the oxidation of ammonia (NH3) by microorganisms, is an important process in the marine N cycle, supplying nitrate (NO3−), the primary source of N that fuels new phytoplankton growth, and the primary substrate for the microbial process of denitrification. Understanding nitrification in the Chukchi Sea, the shallow sea overlying the continental shelf north of Alaska and the Bering Strait, is particularly important as phytoplankton growth there has been shown to be limited by N. However, the controls on nitrification in the water column and potential effects of climate change remain unknown. This study seeks to characterize the controls on nitrification in the Chukchi Sea. We found light to be a strong control on nitrification rates. Nitrification was undetectable at light levels above 23 μmol photons m−2 s−1. Subsequently, sea ice concentration was related to nitrification, with rates being higher at stations with high ice cover where light transmission to the water column was reduced. High ammonium (NH4+) concentrations also enhanced nitrification, suggesting that nitrifying organisms were substrate-limited, likely due to competition for NH4+ from phytoplankton. Unlike previous experimental studies, we found that nitrification rates were higher under low pH conditions. As the effects of ocean acidification and warming disproportionately impact the Arctic, nitrification rates will undoubtedly be affected. Our results will help guide future studies on potential implications of climate change on the biogeochemistry of N in the Chukchi Sea.

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Potential role of seaweeds in climate change mitigation


  • Seaweed carbon accounting is yet to be fully constrained.
  • Seaweed products have the potential to lower industrial emissions.
  • Seaweed farms sequester carbon at site but at a limited scale to date.
  • Quantifying carbon seqestration from wild seaweed restoration remains ellusive.
  • Sinking seaweed has scalability but carries many risks and uncertainties.


Seaweed (macroalgae) has attracted attention globally given its potential for climate change mitigation. A topical and contentious question is: Can seaweeds’ contribution to climate change mitigation be enhanced at globally meaningful scales? Here, we provide an overview of the pressing research needs surrounding the potential role of seaweed in climate change mitigation and current scientific consensus via eight key research challenges. There are four categories where seaweed has been suggested to be used for climate change mitigation: 1) protecting and restoring wild seaweed forests with potential climate change mitigation co-benefits; 2) expanding sustainable nearshore seaweed aquaculture with potential climate change mitigation co-benefits; 3) offsetting industrial CO2 emissions using seaweed products for emission abatement; and 4) sinking seaweed into the deep sea to sequester CO2. Uncertainties remain about quantification of the net impact of carbon export from seaweed restoration and seaweed farming sites on atmospheric CO2. Evidence suggests that nearshore seaweed farming contributes to carbon storage in sediments below farm sites, but how scalable is this process? Products from seaweed aquaculture, such as the livestock methane-reducing seaweed Asparagopsis or low carbon food resources show promise for climate change mitigation, yet the carbon footprint and emission abatement potential remains unquantified for most seaweed products. Similarly, purposely cultivating then sinking seaweed biomass in the open ocean raises ecological concerns and the climate change mitigation potential of this concept is poorly constrained. Improving the tracing of seaweed carbon export to ocean sinks is a critical step in seaweed carbon accounting. Despite carbon accounting uncertainties, seaweed provides many other ecosystem services that justify conservation and restoration and the uptake of seaweed aquaculture will contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. However, we caution that verified seaweed carbon accounting and associated sustainability thresholds are needed before large-scale investment into climate change mitigation from seaweed projects.

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Reconstruction of surface seawater pH in the North Pacific

In the recent significant rise in atmospheric CO2, seawater’s continuous acidification is altering the marine environment’s chemical structure at an unprecedented rate. Due to its potential socioeconomic impact, this subject attracted significant research interest. This study used traditional linear regression, nonlinear regression random forest, and the BP neural network algorithm to establish a prediction model for surface seawater pH based on data of North Pacific sea surface temperature (SST), salinity (SSS), chlorophyll-a concentration (Chl-a), and pressure of carbon dioxide on the sea surface (pCO2) from 1993 to 2018. According to existing research, three approaches were found to be highly accurate in reconstructing the surface seawater pH of the North Pacific. The highest-performing models were the linear regression model using SSS, Chl-a, and pCO2, the random forest model using SST and pCO2, and the BP neural network model using SST, SSS, Chl-a, and pCO2. The BP neural network model outperformed the linear regression and random forest model when comparing the root mean square error and fitting coefficient of the three best models. In addition, the best BP neural network model had substantially higher seasonal applicability than the best linear regression and the best random forest model, with good fitting effects in all four seasons—spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The process of CO2 exchange at the sea–air interface was the key factor affecting the pH of the surface seawater, which was found to be negatively correlated with pCO2 and SST, and positively correlated with SSS and Chl-a. Using the best BP neural network model to reconstruct the surface seawater pH over the North Pacific, it was found that the pH exhibited significant temporal and spatiotemporal variation characteristics. The surface seawater pH value was greater in the winter than the summer, and the pH decline rate over the past 26 years averaged 0.0013 yr−1, with a general decreasing tendency from the northwest to the southeast. The highest value was observed in the tropical western Pacific, while the lowest value was observed in the eastern equatorial region with upwelling, which is consistent with the findings of previous studies.

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Responses of biogenic dimethylated sulfur compounds to environmental changes in the northwestern Pacific continental sea

Continental seas are facing rapid environmental shifts, but how biogenic dimethylated sulfur compounds, including dimethylsulfide (DMS), dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), and dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), will respond to these environmental changes remains poorly understood. Here we investigated the effects of nutrient input, ocean acidification, and dust deposition on the phytoplankton community and organic sulfur cycle in the East China Sea. Nutrient input promoted phytoplankton growth and increased the concentrations of DMS, DMSP, and DMSO. With sufficient nutrients, especially nitrate, the dissolved DMSP degradation was inhibited, and the bacterial DMSP-cleavage pathway (inferred by dddP gene abundance) was enhanced, causing increased DMS production. The sensitivity of phytoplankton biomass and DMS to ocean acidification varied with different initial nutrient levels, demonstrating insensitivity under eutrophic conditions and negative responses under nutrient-limited conditions. The ocean acidification promoted the dissolved DMSP degradation and bacterial DMSP-demethylation pathway (inferred by dmdA gene abundance) and weakened the DMS production, causing the decreases of DMS and DMSP. The nutrient from dust deposition (2 mg L−1) was identified as the key factor in enhancing phytoplankton biomass and the organic sulfur compounds concentrations, but trace metals input from dust deposition had no significant effect. This study has identified environmental drivers and suppressors of phytoplankton and biogenic dimethylated sulfur compounds in a changing marine environment, which will enable the effective modeling of future climate change.

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The impact of potential leakage from the sub-seabed CO2 storage site on the phosphorus transformation in marine sediments – an experimental study


  • The goal was to study the effect of CO2 leakage from a sub-seabed storage on P pools.
  • We conducted series of experiments exposing sediments to CO2-enriched seawater.
  • Acidification can reduce the efficiency of the burial of P in marine sediments.
  • Under acidic pH, apatite P is transformed into organic and non-apatite inorganic P.


Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the sub-seabed geological formations is a method of mitigation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to avoid anthropogenic climate change. While CCS can be one of the most promising technologies to reduce atmospheric CO2 in the short and medium term, it raises serious concerns about the potential leakage of gas from storage sites. In the present study, the impact of acidification induced by CO2 leakage from a sub-seabed storage site on geochemical pools, and thus the mobility, of phosphorus (P) in sediment was investigated during laboratory experiments. The experiments were conducted in a hyperbaric chamber at a hydrostatic pressure of 900 kPa, which simulates pressure conditions at a potential sub-seabed CO2 storage site in the southern Baltic Sea. We performed three separate experiments in which the partial pressure of CO2 was: 352 μatm (corresponding pH = 7.7); 1815 μatm (corresponding pH = 7.0), and 9150 μatm (corresponding pH = 6.3). Under pH 7.0 and 6.3, apatite P is transformed into organic and non-apatite inorganic forms, which are less stable than Casingle bondP bonds and can be more easily released into the water column. At pH 7.7, P released during mineralization of organic matter and microbial reduction of Fesingle bondP phases is bound with Ca, and the concentration of this form increases. The obtained results indicate that acidification of bottom water can reduce the efficiency of P burial in marine sediments, which contributes to an increase in P concentration in the water column and promote eutrophication especially in shallow areas.

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Integrated FT-ICR MS and metabolome reveals diatom-derived organic matter by bacterial transformation under warming and acidification


  • The key roles of algae-associated bacteria in the transformation of algae-derived OM.
  • Bacteria have different preferences for the conversion of compounds in algae-derived OM.
  • Warming and acidification affect microbial transformation of organic matter.


Bacterial transformation and processing of diatom-derived organic matter (OM) is extremely important for the cycling of production and energy in marine ecosystems; this process contributes to the production of microbial food webs. In this study, a cultivable bacterium (Roseobacter sp. SD-R1) from the marine diatom Skeletonema dohrnii were isolated and identified. A combined Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS)/untargeted metabolomics approach was used to synthesize the results of bacterial transformation with dissolved OM (DOM) and lysate OM (LOM) under warming and acidification through laboratory experiments. Roseobacter sp. SD-R1 had different preferences for the conversion of molecules in S. dohrnii-derived DOM and LOM treatments. The effects of warming and acidification contribute to the increased number and complexity of molecules of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur after the bacterial transformation of OM. The chemical complexity generated by bacterial metabolism provides new insights into the mechanisms that shape OM complexity.

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Acidification alters sediment nitrogen source-sink dynamics in eelgrass (Zostera marina (L.)) beds

Dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) in seawater lowers water pH and can disrupt microbial nutrient cycles. It is unclear how acidification impacts hot spots of nutrient cycling in marine ecosystems such as eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds. We measured nutrient and gas fluxes in sediment cores from Z. marina beds and unvegetated-sediment habitats in Shinnecock Bay, New York, USA in a continuous-flow system with acidified and ambient pH treatments. Under ambient conditions, uptake of N2 by nitrogen (N) fixation was greater than production of N2 by denitrification. Denitrification, however, was dominant under acidified conditions. We then enriched flowing seawater with 15NO3 to test the impact of a nutrient pulse with ambient pH or acidified conditions in the eelgrass and unvegetated cores. Sediment N2 efflux was higher in eelgrass than unvegetated sediments under acidified pH with N-enriched treatments. Results suggest that eelgrass beds may serve as sinks rather than sources of N under the combined stressors of acidification and N-loading. Documenting changes to N pathways under acidification can inform efforts to manage marine ecosystems and conserve benthic habitats.

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Physical and biological controls on ocean acidification in the Southampton Island region, Hudson Bay

Located in northwestern Hudson Bay, the Southampton Island region was identified as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and most recently distinguished as an Area of Interest in 2019 to become a Marine Protected Area. The region is undergoing climate-related changes; however, its oceanography has received little attention until recently. The main goal of this thesis was to provide a baseline evaluation of the state of ocean acidification of these waters, and to identify key factors driving changes in both pH and calcium carbonate saturation state. Twenty-two stations were sampled around the Island in August of 2019 for salinity, stable oxygen isotope ratio of seawater, total alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and stable carbon isotope ratio of DIC (δ13CDIC), providing comprehensive water column coverage. High fractions of sea-ice melt were found in surface waters in Foxe Basin/Channel, which had experienced the most recent loss of sea ice. High fractions of meteoric water were found in near-surface waters in Roes Welcome Sound, likely from Wager Bay outflow, and south of the Island, likely from both rivers local to the Island and from Hudson Bay’s northwestern rivers. Regionally high pH, low pCO2, dissolved oxygen (O2) oversaturation, and enriched values of δ13CDIC, and thus likely areas of net primary production, were generally observed in the top ~50 m in Foxe Basin/Channel and Roes Welcome Sound, and near surface in Repulse Bay and Frozen Strait. More acidic and aragonite-undersaturated waters, potentially corrosive to marine calcifying organisms, were found below ~60 to 250 m at stations in Foxe Basin/Channel, and in bottom waters of South Bay and Evans Strait. These areas were high in pCO2 and undersaturated in O2, signifying net respiration had likely produced the observed values. It was concluded that while primary production and respiration appeared to be the dominant processes controlling the concentration of DIC in the Southampton Island region, the data could not be explained by any single process alone, highlighting the importance of metabolic processes, freshwater inputs, and air-sea gas exchange in governing the DIC pool in the region.

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Enhalus acoroides efficiently alleviate ocean acidification by shifting modes of inorganic carbon uptake and increasing photosynthesis when pH drops

Ocean acidification (OA) is causing increasing ecological damage, so it is worthwhile to find efficient and environmentally friendly ways to mitigate OA. The mechanism of inorganic carbon (Ci) absorption and the ability to mitigate OA of the tropical seagrass Enhalus acoroides were investigated in this study. At 2.2 mM Ci concentration, its CO2 fixation efficiency increased to 81.89 t CO2/year/Ha under pH 6.5 from 27.59 t CO2/year/Ha at pH 8.2, and even reached 88.11 t CO2/year/Ha at pH 6.5 with unlimited Ci availability, made possible by three pathways for Ci utilization, which included absorbing CO2 directly, transforming HCO3 into CO2 through extracellular carbonic anhydrase, and absorbing HCO3 directly by anion-exchange protein then transforming it to CO2 through intracellular carbonic anhydrase, as verified by inhibitor addition experiments. The carbon fixation rate increased with decreasing pH, suggesting a greater CO2 absorbing capacity for E. acoroides under acidic conditions, which further demonstrates the possibility of mitigating OA and increasing carbon fixation through conserving and restoring E. acoroides meadows. Due to the strong carbon absorption capacity of E. acoroides, it is very important to strengthen the artificial restoration of E. acoroides seagrass meadows in the environmental management of the coastline.

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Carbonate system in the Cabo Frio upwelling

The quantitative assessment of the carbonate system represents one of the biggest challenges toward the “Sustainable Development Goals” defined by the United Nations in 2015. In this sense, the present study investigated the Spatio-temporal dynamics of the carbonate system and the effects of the El Niño and La Niña phenomena over the Cabo Frio upwelling area. The physical characterization of the site was carried out through data on wind speed and sea surface temperature. Water samples were also collected during the oceanographic cruise onboard the Diadorim R/V (Research Vessel). From these samples, the parameters of absolute and practical salinity, density, pH, total alkalinity, carbonate, calcite, aragonite, bicarbonate dissolved inorganic carbon, carbon dioxide, partial pressure of carbon, calcium, and total boron were obtained. The highest average concentration of bicarbonate in S1 (2018 µmol/kg) seems to contribute to the dissolved inorganic carbon values (2203 µmol/kg). The values of calcite saturation state, aragonite saturation state, and carbonate were higher on the surface of each station (calcite saturation state = 4.80–5.48; aragonite saturation state = 3.10–3.63, and carbonate = 189–216 µmol/kg). The mean values of pH were similar in the day/night samples (7.96/7.97). The whole carbonate system was calculated through thermodynamic modeling with the Marine Chemical Analysis (AQM) program loaded with the results of the following parameters: temperature, salinity, total alkalinity, and pH parameters. This manuscript presents original data on the carbonate system and the “acidification” process influenced by the Cabo Frio upwelling, which directly depends on the El Niño and La Niña phenomena oscillations in the sea surface temperature.

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Multiple factors driving carbonate system in subtropical coral community environments along Dapeng Peninsula, South China Sea

Coral reef ecosystems have extremely high primary productivity and play an important role in the marine carbon cycle. However, due to the high carbon metabolism efficiency of coral communities, little is known about the carbon sink–source properties of coral reefs. In November 2022, in situ field investigations coupled with incubation experiments were conducted in typical subtropical coral reef waters, i.e., Yangmeikeng Sea Area (Area I) and Dalu Bay (Area Ⅱ), to explore the dynamics of the carbonate system and its controlling factors. The results revealed that the carbonate parameters had high variability, comprehensively forced by various physical and biochemical processes. Overall, Areas I and Ⅱ were net sinks of atmospheric CO2, with net uptake fluxes of 1.66 ± 0.40 and 0.99 ± 0.08 mmol C m−2 day−1, respectively. The aragonite saturation state (ΩA), 3.04–3.87, was within the range adequate for growth of tropical shallow-water scleractinian corals. Inorganic carbon budget results indicated that photosynthesis and microbial respiration were the main factors affecting the dynamics of carbonate systems in the whole study area. However, focusing on the reef areas, coral metabolism was also a key factor affecting the carbonate system in seawater (especially in Area I) and its contribution accounted for 28.9–153.3% of the microbial respiration. This study highlighted that metabolism of coral communities could significantly affect the seawater carbonate system, which is of great significance in the context of the current process of ocean acidification.

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Coral adaptive capacity insufficient to halt global transition of coral reefs into net erosion under climate change

Projecting the effects of climate change on net reef calcium carbonate production is critical to understanding the future impacts on ecosystem function, but prior estimates have not included corals’ natural adaptive capacity to such change. Here we estimate how the ability of symbionts to evolve tolerance to heat stress, or for coral hosts to shuffle to favourable symbionts, and their combination, may influence responses to the combined impacts of ocean warming and acidification under three representative concentration pathway (RCP) emissions scenarios (RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). We show that symbiont evolution and shuffling, both individually and when combined, favours persistent positive net reef calcium carbonate production. However, our projections of future net calcium carbonate production (NCCP) under climate change vary both spatially and by RCP. For example, 19%–35% of modelled coral reefs are still projected to have net positive NCCP by 2050 if symbionts can evolve increased thermal tolerance, depending on the RCP. Without symbiont adaptive capacity, the number of coral reefs with positive NCCP drops to 9%–13% by 2050. Accounting for both symbiont evolution and shuffling, we project median positive NCPP of coral reefs will still occur under low greenhouse emissions (RCP2.6) in the Indian Ocean, and even under moderate emissions (RCP4.5) in the Pacific Ocean. However, adaptive capacity will be insufficient to halt the transition of coral reefs globally into erosion by 2050 under severe emissions scenarios (RCP8.5).

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Ocean acidification alters the benthic biofilm communities in intertidal soft sediments

Microphytobenthos (MPB) and bacterial biofilms play crucial roles in primary and secondary production, nutrient cycling and invertebrate settlement in coastal ecosystems, yet little is known of the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on these communities in intertidal soft sediments. To fill in this gap, a 28-day CO2 enhancement experiment was conducted for the benthic biofilms in soft intertidal sediments (muds and sands) from Qingdao, China. This experiment included three CO2 treatments: 400 ppm CO2 (control), 700 ppm CO2 and 1000 ppm CO2 (IPCC predicted value in 2100), which were established in a three-level CO2 incubator that can adjust the CO2 concentration in the overlying air. The effects of OA on benthic biofilms were assessed in the following three aspects: MPB biomass, biofilm community structure and microbial biogeochemical cycling (e.g., C-cycle, N-cycle and S-cycle). This study found that the 700 ppm CO2 treatment did not significantly affect the benthic biofilms in intertidal soft sediments, but the 1000 ppm CO2 treatment significantly altered the biofilm community composition and potentially their role in microbial biogeochemical cycling in sediments (especially in sandy sediments). For the bacterial community in biofilms, the 1000 ppm CO2 enhancement increased the relative abundance of Alteromonadales and Bacillales but decreased the relative abundance of Rhodobacterales and Flavobacteriales. For microbial biogeochemical cycling, the 1000 ppm CO2 treatment enhanced the potential of chemoheterotrophic activity, nitrate reduction and sulfur respiration in sediments, likely resulting in a more stressful environment (hypoxic and enriched H2S) for most benthic organisms. Even though incubations in this study were only 28 days long and thus couldn’t fully accommodate the range of longer-term adaptions, it still suggests that benthic biofilms in intertidal sandy sediments are likely to change significantly near the end of the century if anthropogenic CO2 emissions unmitigated, with profound implications on local ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling.

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Long-term slowdown of ocean carbon uptake by alkalinity dynamics

Oceanic absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is expected to slow down under increasing anthropogenic emissions; however, the driving mechanisms and rates of change remain uncertain, limiting our ability to project long-term changes in climate. Using an Earth system simulation, we show that the uptake of anthropogenic carbon will slow in the next three centuries via reductions in surface alkalinity. Warming and associated changes in precipitation and evaporation intensify density stratification of the upper ocean, inhibiting the transport of alkaline water from the deep. The effect of these changes is amplified threefold by reduced carbonate buffering, making alkalinity a dominant control on CO2 uptake on multi-century timescales. Our simulation reveals a previously unknown alkalinity-climate feedback loop, amplifying multi-century warming under high emission trajectories.

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A biogeochemical model of mineral-based ocean alkalinity enhancement: impacts on the biological pump and ocean carbon uptake

Minimizing anthropogenic climate disruption in the coming century will likely require carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from Earth’s atmosphere in addition to deep and rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. Ocean alkalinity enhancement — the modification of surface ocean chemistry to drive marine uptake of atmospheric CO2 — is seen as a potentially significant component of ocean-based CDR portfolios. However, there has been limited mechanistic exploration of the large-scale CDR potential of mineral-based ocean alkalinity enhancement, potential bottlenecks in alkalinity release, and the biophysical impacts of alkaline mineral feedstocks on marine ecology and the marine biological carbon pump. Here we a series of biogeochemical models to evaluate the gross CDR potential and environmental impacts of ocean alkalinity enhancement using solid mineral feedstocks. We find that natural alkalinity sources — basalt and olivine — lead to very low CDR efficiency while strongly perturbing marine food quality and fecal pellet production by marine zooplankton. Artificial alkalinity sources — the synthetic metal oxides MgO and CaO — are potentially capable of significant CDR with reduced environmental impact, but their deployment at scale faces major challenges associated with substrate limitation and process CO2 emissions during feedstock production. Taken together, our results highlight distinct challenges for ocean alkalinity enhancement as a CDR strategy and indicate that mineral-based ocean alkalinity enhancement should be pursued with caution.

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Sponge organic matter recycling: reduced detritus production under extreme environmental conditions


  • Sponge metabolism was measured at the natural laboratory of Bouraké where sponges are naturally exposed to extreme conditions associated with tidal phase.
  • The photosymbiotic HMA sponge Rhabdastrella globostellata was able to cope with extreme acidification and deoxygenation seawater.
  • Photosynthetic activity of sponge symbionts was negatively affected during extreme environmental conditions.
  • The sponge loop pathway was disrupted during low tide, which correlated with extreme acidification, deoxygenation and warming seawater.


Sponges are a key component of coral reef ecosystems and play an important role in carbon and nutrient cycles. Many sponges are known to consume dissolved organic carbon and transform this into detritus, which moves through detrital food chains and eventually to higher trophic levels via what is known as the sponge loop. Despite the importance of this loop, little is known about how these cycles will be impacted by future environmental conditions. During two years (2018 and 2020), we measured the organic carbon, nutrient recycling, and photosynthetic activity of the massive HMA, photosymbiotic sponge Rhabdastrella globostellata at the natural laboratory of Bouraké in New Caledonia, where the physical and chemical composition of seawater regularly change according to the tide. We found that while sponges experienced acidification and low dissolved oxygen at low tide in both sampling years, a change in organic carbon recycling whereby sponges stopped producing detritus (i.e., the sponge loop) was only found when sponges also experienced higher temperature in 2020. Our findings provide new insights into how important trophic pathways may be affected by changing ocean conditions.

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