Posts Tagged 'modeling'

Projected increase in carbon dioxide drawdown and acidification in large estuaries under climate change

Most estuaries are substantial sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. The estimated estuarine CO2 degassing is about 17% of the total oceanic uptake, but the effect of rising atmospheric CO2 on estuarine carbon balance remains unclear. Here we use 3D hydrodynamic-biogeochemical models of a large eutrophic estuary and a box model of two generic, but contrasting estuaries to generalize how climate change affects estuarine carbonate chemistry and CO2 fluxes. We found that small estuaries with short flushing times remain a CO2 source to the atmosphere, but large estuaries with long flushing times may become a greater carbon sink and acidify. In particular, climate downscaling projections for Chesapeake Bay in the mid-21st century showed a near-doubling of CO2 uptake, a pH decline of 0.1–0.3, and >90% expansion of the acidic volume. Our findings suggest that large eutrophic estuaries will become carbon sinks and suffer from accelerated acidification in a changing climate.

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Sensitivity of fishery resources to climate change in the warm-temperate Southwest Atlantic Ocean

Climate change impacts on fishery resources have been widely reported worldwide. Nevertheless, a knowledge gap remains for the warm-temperate Southwest Atlantic Ocean—a global warming hotspot that sustains important industrial and small-scale fisheries. By combining a trait-based framework and long-term landing records, we assessed species’ sensitivity to climate change and potential changes in the distribution of important fishery resources (n = 28; i.e., bony fishes, chondrichthyans, crustaceans, and mollusks) in Southern Brazil, Uruguay, and the northern shelf of Argentina. Most species showed moderate or high sensitivity, with mollusks (e.g., sedentary bivalves and snails) being the group with the highest sensitivity, followed by chondrichthyans. Bony fishes showed low and moderate sensitivities, while crustacean sensitivities were species-specific. The stock and/or conservation status overall contributed the most to higher sensitivity. Between 1989 and 2019, species with low and moderate sensitivity dominated regional landings, regardless of the jurisdiction analyzed. A considerable fraction of these landings consisted of species scoring high or very high on an indicator for potential to change their current distribution. These results suggest that although the bulk of past landings were from relatively climate-resilient species, future catches and even entire benthic fisheries may be jeopardized because (1) some exploited species showed high or very high sensitivities and (2) the increase in the relative representation of landings in species whose distribution may change. This paper provides novel results and insights relevant for fisheries management from a region where the effects of climate change have been overlooked, and which lacks a coordinated governance system for climate-resilient fisheries.

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Predicting coral reef carbonate chemistry through statistical modeling: constraining nearshore residence time around Guam

To accurately predict the impacts of ocean acidification on shallow-water ecosystems, we must account for the biogeochemical impact of local benthic communities, as well as the connectivity between offshore and onshore water masses. Estimation of residence time can help quantify this connectivity and determine the degree to which the benthos can influence the chemistry of the overlying water column. We present estimates of nearshore residence time for Guam and utilize these estimates to model the effects of benthic ecosystem metabolism on the coral reef carbonate system. Control volume and particle tracking approaches were used to estimate nearshore residence time. These estimates were paired with observed patterns in the reef carbonate system around Guam using water samples collected by NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program. Model performance results suggest that when considering the effects of benthic metabolism on the carbonate system, it is paramount to represent the contact time of the water volume with the benthos. Even coarse estimates of residence time significantly increase model skill. We observed the highest predictive skill in models including control volume derived estimates of residence time, but only when those estimates were included as an interaction with benthic composition. This work shows that not only is residence time critically important to better predict biogeochemical variability in coral reef environments, but that even coarse hydrodynamic models can provide useful residence time estimates at management relevant, whole-ecosystem scales.

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Evaluating environmental controls on the exoskeleton density of larval Dungeness crab via micro computed tomography

Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) have significant socioeconomic value, but are threatened by ocean acidification (OA) and other environmental stressors that are driven by climate change. Despite evidence that adult harvests are sensitive to the abundance of larval populations, relatively little is known about how Dungeness megalopae will respond to these stressors. Here we evaluate the ability to use micro-computed tomography (μCT) to detect variations in megalope exoskeleton density and how these measurements reflect environmental variables and calcification mechanisms. We use a combination of field data, culture experiments, and model simulations to suggest resolvable differences in density are best explained by minimum pH at the time zoeae molt into megalopae. We suggest that this occurs because more energy must be expended on active ion pumping to reach a given degree of calcite supersaturation at lower pH. Energy availability may also be reduced due to its diversion to other coping mechanisms. Alternate models based on minimum temperature at the time of the zoea-megalope molt are nearly as strong and complicate the ability to conclusively disentangle pH and temperature influences. Despite this, our results suggest that carryover effects between life stages and short-lived extreme events may be particularly important controls on exoskeleton integrity. μCT-based estimates of exoskeleton density are a promising tool for evaluating the health of Dungeness crab populations that will likely provide more nuanced information than presence-absence observations, but future in situ field sampling and culture experiments are needed to refine and validate our results.

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Climate change effects on marine species across trophic levels

Climate change and anthropogenic activities are producing a range of new selection pressures, both abiotic and biotic, on marine organisms. While there are numerous studies that have investigated the response of individual marine organisms to climate change, few studies have focused on differences in organismal responses across trophic levels. Such trophic differences in response to climate change may disrupt ecological interactions and thereby threaten marine ecosystem function. In addition, predation is known as a strong driver that impacts individuals and populations. Despite this, we still do not have a comprehensive understanding of how different trophic levels respond to climate change stressors, predation and their combined effects in marine ecosystems.

The main focus of this thesis is to identify whether marine trophic levels respond differently to climatic stressors and predation. To explore these questions, I have used a combination of traditional mesocosm experiments, together with a statistical method called meta-analysis. I initiated the research by study the responses of marine gastropods at two trophic levels to ocean acidification and predation using long-term mesocosm experiments together with a gastropod-specific meta-analyses. I focused on the amount of phenotypic plasticity in morphological traits of snails when exposed to the two stressors. In order to generalise and test these assumptions among a greater number of marine taxa, I used the meta-analysis approach to investigate the effects of ocean acidification and warming, as well as their combined effects on four marine trophic levels. Finally, to study the individual and combined effects of ocean acidification and predation with respect to inducible defences, I again applied a mesocosm experiment and used blue mussels as a model species.

By using long-term mesocosm experiments and the gastropod-specific meta-analysis on marine gastropods from two trophic levels, I showed that these trophic levels varied in their responses to both ocean acidification and predation. Gastropods at lower trophic levels exhibited greater phenotypic plasticity against predation, while those from higher trophic levels showed stronger tolerance to ocean acidification. Next, by using a meta-analysis, including a large number of species and taxa, examining the effects of ocean acidification and warming, I revealed that top-predators and primary producers were most tolerant to ocean acidification compared to other trophic levels. Herbivores on the other hand, were the most vulnerable trophic level against abiotic stress. Again, using the meta-analysis approach, but this time incorporating only factorial experimental data that included the interactive effects of ocean acidification and ocean warming, I showed that higher trophic levels again were the most tolerant trophic level, and herbivores being most sensitive, with respect to the combined effect of the two stressors. Contrary to previous discussions in the literature concerning multiple climate-related stressors, antagonistic and additive effects occurred most frequently, while synergistic effects were less common and which decreased with increasing trophic rank. Finally, by conducting a fully-factorial experiment using blue mussels, I found that mussels with previous experience contact with predator has developed greater inducible defences than ones without previous experience. However, levels of ocean acidification may mask predator cues, or obstruct shell material, and consequently disrupt blue mussels inducible defence from crab predation.

In summary, marine trophic levels respond differently to both biotic and climatic stressors. Higher trophic levels, together with primary producers, were often more robust against abiotic stress and may therefore be better prepared for future oceans compare species from lower trophic levels. These results may provide vital information for: implementing effective climate change mitigation, to understand which stressors to act on, and when and where to intervene for prioritizing conservation actions.

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Early detection of anthropogenic climate change signals in the ocean interior

Robust detection of anthropogenic climate change is crucial to: (i) improve our understanding of Earth system responses to external forcing, (ii) reduce uncertainty in future climate projections, and (iii) develop efficient mitigation and adaptation plans. Here, we use Earth system model projections to establish the detection timescales of anthropogenic signals in the global ocean through analyzing temperature, salinity, oxygen, and pH evolution from surface to 2000 m depths. For most variables, anthropogenic changes emerge earlier in the interior ocean than at the surface, due to the lower background variability at depth. Acidification is detectable earliest, followed by warming and oxygen changes in the subsurface tropical Atlantic. Temperature and salinity changes in the subsurface tropical and subtropical North Atlantic are shown to be early indicators for a slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Even under mitigated scenarios, inner ocean anthropogenic signals are projected to emerge within the next few decades. This is because they originate from existing surface changes that are now propagating into the interior. In addition to the tropical Atlantic, our study calls for establishment of long-term interior monitoring systems in the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic in order to elucidate how spatially heterogeneous anthropogenic signals propagate into the interior and impact marine ecosystems and biogeochemistry.

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Predicting effects of multiple interacting global change drivers across trophic levels

Global change encompasses many co-occurring anthropogenic drivers, which can act synergistically or antagonistically on ecological systems. Predicting how different global change drivers simultaneously contribute to observed biodiversity change is a key challenge for ecology and conservation. However, we lack the mechanistic understanding of how multiple global change drivers influence the vital rates of multiple interacting species. We propose that reaction norms, the relationships between a driver and vital rates like growth, mortality, and consumption, provide insights to the underlying mechanisms of community responses to multiple drivers. Understanding how multiple drivers interact to affect demographic rates using a reaction-norm perspective can improve our ability to make predictions of interactions at higher levels of organization—that is, community and food web. Building on the framework of consumer–resource interactions and widely studied thermal performance curves, we illustrate how joint driver impacts can be scaled up from the population to the community level. A simple proof-of-concept model demonstrates how reaction norms of vital rates predict the prevalence of driver interactions at the community level. A literature search suggests that our proposed approach is not yet used in multiple driver research. We outline how realistic response surfaces (i.e., multidimensional reaction norms) can be inferred by parametric and nonparametric approaches. Response surfaces have the potential to strengthen our understanding of how multiple drivers affect communities as well as improve our ability to predict when interactive effects emerge, two of the major challenges of ecology today.

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Alkalinity biases in CMIP6 Earth System Models and implications for simulated CO2 drawdown via artificial alkalinity enhancement

The partitioning of CO2 between atmosphere and ocean depends to a large degree not only on the amount of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) but also of alkalinity in the surface ocean. That is also why, in the context of negative emission approaches ocean alkalinity enhancement is discussed as one potential approach. Although alkalinity is thus an important variable of the marine carbonate system little knowledge exists how its representation in models compares with measurements. We evaluated the large-scale alkalinity distribution in 14 CMIP6 models against the observational data set GLODAPv2 and showed that most models as well as the multi-model-mean underestimate alkalinity at the surface and in the upper ocean, while overestimating alkalinity in the deeper ocean. The decomposition of the global mean alkalinity biases into contributions from physical processes (preformed alkalinity), remineralization, and carbonate formation and dissolution showed that the bias stemming from the physical redistribution of alkalinity is dominant. However, below the upper few hundred meters the bias from carbonate dissolution can become similarly important as physical biases, while the contribution from remineralization processes is negligible. This highlights the critical need for better understanding and quantification of processes driving calcium carbonate dissolution in microenvironments above the saturation horizons, and implementation of these processes into biogeochemical models.

For the application of the models to assess the potential of ocean alkalinity enhancement to increase ocean carbon uptake and counteract ocean acidification, a back-of-the-envelope calculation was conducted with each model’s global mean surface alkalinity and DIC as input parameters. We find that the degree of compensation of DIC and alkalinity biases at the surface is more important for the marine CO2 uptake capacity than the alkalinity biases themselves. The global mean surface alkalinity bias relative to GLODAPv2 in the different models ranges from -85 mmol kg-1 (-3.6 %) to +50 mmol kg-1 (+2.1 %) (mean: -25 mmol kg-1 or -1.1 %), while for DIC the relative bias ranges from -55 mmol kg-1 (-2.6 %) to 53 mmol kg-1 (+2.5 %) (mean: -13 mmol kg-1 or -0.6 %). Because of this partial compensation, all but two of the CMIP6 models evaluated here overestimate the Revelle factor at the surface and thus overestimate the CO2-draw-down after alkalinity addition by up to 13 % and pH increase by up to 7.2 %. This overestimate has to be taken into account when reporting on efficiencies of ocean alkalinity enhancement experiments using CMIP6 models.

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Effects of climate change on the Kenyan coral reef eco-system

The coral reef ecosystem is a natural habitat for many marine organisms that has high economic and tourist significance. Nonetheless, this ecosystem has very low tolerance to the effects of changes brought about by increasing sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification. This study sought to investigate the combined effect of rising sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification on the Kenyan coral reef ecosystem. This was achieved by determining the spatial-temporal variability of ocean acidification over the Kenyan coastline; and simulating the combined effect of sea surface temperature increases and ocean acidification on the coral reef ecosystem.

Historical (2000-2021) data on sea surface temperature (SSTs) was obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and data on dissolved total carbon dioxide (TCO2) and pH from Global Ocean Data Analysis Project (GLODAP). Future (2022-2081) sea surface temperature and dissolved carbon dioxide data was downloaded from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) experiment for two Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) namely SSP2-4.5 and SSP5-8.5. Statistical, graphical and model simulations analyses were applied in the study to investigate the combined effect of increasing SST and ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystem over the Kenyan coastline.

Results indicate that mean sea surface temperature and dissolved carbon dioxide along the Kenyan coastline varied with seasons and had increased between the years 2000-2021. Trend tests of SSTs and TCO2 revealed a significant upward trend at 5% level of significance. Rising SSTs led to bleaching in coral reefs along this coastline whereas TCO2 led to reduced amount of carbonate ion concentration and reduced pH in the sea surface waters which affected the rates of calcification and survival of the coral reefs. The results of the Combined Mortality and Bleaching Output model simulation revealed that bleaching and ocean acidification had negatively affected the coral reef cover resulting in a decline of more than 30% of cover between 2000 and 2021. The results of the simulation also projected that the coral reef cover will continue to decline in the long-term by 52% under SSP2-4.5 and 63% under SSP5-8.5 if the trends in SSTs and TCO2 are maintained.

This study recommends collaborative implementation of climate change policies and practices by national and regional governments, communities and policy makers; enhanced efforts by coastal county governments in Kenya and research organisations to expound on scientific knowledge base while simultaneously implementing sustainable targeted solutions to ensure that the socio-economic benefits of the coral reef ecosystem are sustained.

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Dynamics of an aquatic diffusive predator–prey model with double Allee effect and pH-dependent capture rate

To investigate ocean acidification and Allee effects on the dynamics of a marine predator–prey system, an aquatic diffusive predator–prey model with double Allee effect on prey and pH-dependent capture rate is considered. First, we study the stability of constant steady state solutions using linearized theory. Second, the nonexistence of nonconstant positive steady state solutions is shown for appropriate ranges of parameters. Furthermore, we show the existence of a Hopf bifurcation and derive the direction and stability of the bifurcating periodic solutions. Both theoretical analysis and numerical simulation show that changing predator–prey interaction strengths, due to changing environmental conditions, can fundamentally change the system dynamics, even for apparently small changes in interaction strength. As the interaction strength decreases due to decreasing ocean pH, the system dynamics transition from persistent fluctuations in species abundances (periodic solutions), to stable coexistence, to predator extinct (with stable non-zero prey abundance), suggesting the potential for ocean acidification to decrease the abundance and diversity of marine species by weakening predation rates. Moreover, double Allee effect parameters together determine the stability of periodic solutions when the spatially homogeneous bifurcating periodic solutions exist, and the wavelength becomes longer as the Allee effect increases.

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Hydrological and biogeochemical controls on estuarine carbonate chemistry along a climate gradient

Increasing global atmospheric CO2 concentrations drive a net flux of CO2 into the oceans, mitigating the impacts of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the climate. This results in a reduction in pH and carbonate saturation state, a.k.a. ocean acidification, of marine waters. The acidified ocean water may advect into estuaries, leading to estuarine acidification. Many estuaries are highly sensitive to this acidification due to low buffer capacity. Because estuaries provide many important ecosystem services, alterations in their carbonate systems may have significant consequences on ecosystems and the economy. Despite the current understanding that estuaries may play a disproportionately important role in global air-sea CO2 flux, little is known about carbonate systems in subtropical estuaries. Further comprehension of estuarine carbonate systems is vital for quantification of the global carbon cycle. Specifically, subtropical estuaries in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico (nwGOM) exhibit a general long-term decrease in pH and total alkalinity (TA), with lower latitudes experiencing more extreme acidification than higher latitudes.

In Chapter II, sediment cores and slurries from the semiarid Mission-Aransas Estuary of the nwGOM were incubated and surface waters were analyzed for contributions of biogeochemical processes to TA change. Changes in total TA as well as calcium and sulfate ion concentration were examined following known reaction stoichiometry. Ratio of TA: ion changes suggested that carbonate dissolution co-occurred with oxidation of reduced sulfur species, and the latter consumed TA during drought periods in Mission-Aransas Estuary. This biogeochemical (sulfide oxidation) TA consumption has been poorly studied yet may affect TA budget in other semiarid estuaries worldwide.

In Chapter III, river alkalinity total load and concentration were calculated using the United States Geological Survey’s Fortran Load Estimator Program (LOADEST) and long-term trends in alkalinity and discharge of six major nwGOM rivers were determined. Stepwise multiple linear regression methods were used to generate models for predicting estuarine TA based on river alkalinity, year, and net evaporation (evaporation-precipitation). Some rivers were found to have long-term (multidecadal) declines in freshwater discharge, area-weighted alkalinity yield, of alkalinity flow-weighted concentration, with most declines occurring in the southern end of the study region. Freshwater flow-weighted alkalinity concentration (annual alkalinity load for an area divided by discharge) appeared in many of the predictive models for estuarine TA and may play a major role in regulating estuarine TA of the nwGOM. Methods for linking freshwater and estuarine carbonate dynamics are lacking in the scientific literature; this study provides a potentially useful approach for predicting estuarine carbonate chemistry based on freshwater quality and input.

In Chapter IV, CO2 flux of the Trinity-San Jacinto Estuary (Galveston Bay) was calculated and compared to results from discrete samples for carbonate parameters. Inferences about spatial and temporal patterns in CO2 flux as well as ecosystem metabolism were made based on results. The Trinity-San Jacinto Estuary was found to be a net sink for atmospheric CO2, but with high seasonal and spatial variability. Specifically, large freshwater inflows in spring stimulated photosynthesis in the estuary, which increased the sink behavior. Seasons with less freshwater inflow resulted in higher heterotrophy and CO2 emission in some regions of the estuary.

This research increases knowledge and research capacity in the nwGOM region on estuarine acidification and carbonate chemistry. Causes of acidification in major estuaries within the region were addressed along a latitudinal climatic gradient. This will aid with better management of fresh and estuarine water resources in the nwGOM. The results of this research will also clarify the role of semiarid, subtropical estuaries in the global carbon cycle and expand our range of knowledge on carbonate system analyses of estuaries.

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Observations of seawater carbonate chemistry in the Southern California Current

The ocean has taken up roughly a quarter of the total anthropogenic carbon emissions (Gruber et al., 2019). This addition causes changes in carbonate system equilibrium, decreasing ocean pH, which impacts marine organisms, ecosystems, and humans reliant on marine resources (Doney et al., 2020). The study of the changing carbonate chemistry and its impact on the ocean requires the refinement of measurement techniques, observational programs, models and the sharing of data. Chapter 1 focuses on measurement techniques by assessing the stability of tris pH buffer in artificial seawater stored in bags. These bagged reference materials can be used by both benchtop and autonomous instruments to aid in quality control of measurements of carbonate chemistry. Chapter 2 focuses on continued observation, with the oldest inorganic carbon time series in the Pacific. This time series in the Southern California Current helps confirm the rate of anthropogenic ocean acidification observed in other regions of the ocean. Chapter 3 focuses on models by using seasonal cycles determined in Chapter 2 to build a mixed layer carbon budget at the location of the time series. Chapter 4 focuses on the sharing of data by summarizing and publishing previously unavailable observations of carbonate chemistry in the Southern California Current going back as far as 1983.

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Understanding the seasonality, trends, and controlling factors of Indian Ocean acidification over distinctive bio-provinces

The Indian Ocean (IO) is witnessing acidification as a direct consequence of the continuous rising of atmospheric CO2 concentration and indirectly due to rapid ocean warming, which disrupts the pH of the surface waters. This study investigates the pH seasonality and trends over various bio-provinces of the IO and regionally assesses the contribution of each of its controlling factors. Simulations from a global and a regional ocean model coupled with biogeochemical modules were validated with pH measurements over the basin and used to discern the regional response of pH seasonality (1990–2010) and trend (1961–2010) to changes in Sea Surface Temperature (SST), Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC), Total Alkalinity (ALK), and Salinity (S). DIC and SST are significant contributors to the seasonal variability of pH in almost all bio-provinces. Total acidification in the IO basin was 0.0675 units from 1961 to 2010, with 69.3% contribution from DIC followed by 13.8% contribution from SST. For most of the bio-provinces, DIC remains a dominant contributor to changing trends in pH except for the Northern Bay of Bengal and Around India (NBoB-AI) region, wherein the pH trend is dominated by ALK (55.6%) and SST (16.8%). Interdependence of SST and S over ALK is significant in modifying the carbonate chemistry and biogeochemical dynamics of NBoB-AI and a part of tropical, subtropical IO bio-provinces. A strong correlation between SST and pH trends infers an increasing risk of acidification in the bio-provinces with rising SST and points out the need for sustained monitoring of IO pH in such hotspots.

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Restoration and coral adaptation delay, but do not prevent, climate-driven reef framework erosion of an inshore site in the Florida Keys

For reef framework to persist, calcium carbonate production by corals and other calcifiers needs to outpace loss due to physical, chemical, and biological erosion. This balance is both delicate and dynamic and is currently threatened by the effects of ocean warming and acidification. Although the protection and recovery of ecosystem functions are at the center of most restoration and conservation programs, decision makers are limited by the lack of predictive tools to forecast habitat persistence under different emission scenarios. To address this, we developed a modelling approach, based on carbonate budgets, that ties species-specific responses to site-specific global change using the latest generation of climate models projections (CMIP6). We applied this model to Cheeca Rocks, an outlier in the Florida Keys in terms of high coral cover, and explored the outcomes of restoration targets scheduled in the coming 20 years at this site by the Mission: Iconic Reefs restoration initiative. Additionally, we examined the potential effects of coral thermal adaptation by increasing the bleaching threshold by 0.25, 0.5, 1 and 2˚C. Regardless of coral adaptative capacity or restoration, net carbonate production at Cheeca Rocks declines heavily once the threshold for the onset of annual severe bleaching is reached. The switch from net accretion to net erosion, however, is significantly delayed by mitigation and adaptation. The maintenance of framework accretion until 2100 and beyond is possible under a decreased emission scenario coupled with thermal adaptation above 0.5˚C. Although restoration initiatives increase reef accretion estimates, Cheeca Rocks will only be able to keep pace with future sea-level rise in a world where anthropogenic CO2 emissions are reduced. Present results, however, attest to the potential of restoration interventions combined with increases in coral thermal tolerance to delay the onset of mass bleaching mortalities, possibly in time for a low-carbon economy to be implemented and complementary mitigation measures to become effective.

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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 three-fold 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.

Key Points

  • Oceanic uptake of carbon could slow in upcoming centuries through previously unidentified alkalinity-climate feedback
  • Reduced upwelling and carbonate buffer enhance the influence of alkalinity on the increase in surface ocean carbon dioxide
  • Reductions in surface alkalinity will reduce the rate of carbon uptake on multi-century timescales
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Potential ecosystem regime shift resulting from elevated CO2 and inhibition of macroalgal recruitment by turf algae

Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations are predicted to cause an undesirable transition from macroalgae-dominant to turf algae-dominant ecosystems due to its effect on community structuring processes. As turf algae are more likely to proliferate due to the CO2 fertilization effect than macroalgae and often inhibit macroalgal recruitment, increased CO2 beyond certain levels may produce novel positive feedback loops that promote turf algae growth and thus can stabilize turf algae-dominant ecosystems. In this study, we built a simple competition model between macroalgae and turf algae in a homogeneous space to investigate the steady-state response of the ecosystem to changes in the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2). We found that discontinuous regime shifts in response to pCO2 change can occur once turf algae coverage reaches a critical level capable of inhibiting macroalgal recruitment. The effect of localized turf algae density on the success rate of macroalgae recruitment was also investigated using a patch model that simulated a two-dimensional heterogeneous space. This suggested that in addition to the inhibitory effect by turf algae, a self-enhancing effect by macroalgae could also be important in predicting the potential discontinuous regime shifts in response to future pCO2 changes.

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Testing hypotheses on the calcification in scleractinian corals using a spatio-temporal model that shows a high degree of robustness


  • Several hypotheses on coral calcification are tested using a computational model.
  • The model is able to reproduce the experimental data of three separate studies.
  • The model finds that paracellular ion transport into the ECM plays a minor role.
  • Implementing OA in the model increased the calcification rate and ATP consumption.
  • In the model, LEC is the result of increased metabolism and Ca2+-ATPase activity.


Calcification in photosynthetic scleractinian corals is a complicated process that involves many different biological, chemical, and physical sub-processes that happen within and around the coral tissue. Identifying and quantifying the role of separate processes in vivo or in vitro is difficult or not possible. A computational model can facilitate this research by simulating the sub-processes independently. This study presents a spatio-temporal model of the calcification physiology, which is based on processes that are considered essential for calcification: respiration, photosynthesis, Ca2+-ATPase, carbonic anhydrase. The model is used to test different hypotheses considering ion transport across the calicoblastic cells and Light Enhanced Calcification (LEC). It is also used to quantify the effect of ocean acidification (OA) on the Extracellular Calcifying Medium (ECM) and ATP-consumption of Ca2+-ATPase. It was able to reproduce the experimental data of three separate studies and finds that paracellular transport plays a minor role compared to transcellular transport. In the model, LEC results from increased Ca2+-ATPase activity in combination with increased metabolism. Implementing OA increases the concentration of CO2 throughout the entire tissue, thereby increasing the availability of CO3− in the ECM. As a result, the model finds that calcification becomes more energy-demanding and the calcification rate increases.

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Effect of plankton composition shifts in the North Atlantic on atmospheric pCO2


Marine carbon cycle processes are important for taking up atmospheric CO2 thereby reducing climate change. Net primary and export production are important pathways of carbon from the surface to the deep ocean where it is stored for millennia. Climate change can interact with marine ecosystems via changes in the ocean stratification and ocean circulation. In this study we use results from the Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2) to assess the effect of a changing climate on biological production and phytoplankton composition in the high latitude North Atlantic Ocean. We find a shift in phytoplankton type dominance from diatoms to small phytoplankton which reduces net primary and export productivity. Using a conceptual carbon-cycle model forced with CESM2 results, we give a rough estimate of a positive phytoplankton composition-atmospheric CO2 feedback of approximately 60 GtCO2/°C warming in the North Atlantic which lowers the 1.5° and 2.0°C warming safe carbon budgets.

Key Points

  • Biological production decreases significantly in the high latitude North Atlantic in Community Earth System Model version 2 under the SSP5-8.5 scenario
  • Phytolankton type dominance shifts from diatoms to small phytoplankton
  • A positive feedback loop is diagnosed where changes in the physical system decrease biological production, reducing oceanic uptake of CO2
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Recent trends and variability in the oceanic storage of dissolved inorganic carbon

Several methods have been developed to quantify the oceanic accumulation of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) in response to rising atmospheric CO2. Yet, we still lack a corresponding estimate of the changes in the total oceanic dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). In addition to the increase in anthropogenic CO2, changes in DIC also include alterations of natural CO2. Once integrated globally, changes in DIC reflect the net oceanic sink for atmospheric CO2, complementary to estimates of the air-sea CO2 exchange based on surface measurements. Here, we extend the MOBO-DIC machine learning approach by Keppler et al. (2020a) to estimate global monthly fields of DIC at 1° resolution over the top 1500 m from 2004 through 2019. We find that over these 16 years and extrapolated to cover the whole global ocean down to 4000 m, the oceanic DIC pool increased close to linearly at an average rate of 3.2+/-0.7 Pg C yr^-1. This trend is statistically indistinguishable from current estimates of the oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2 over the same period. Thus, our study implies no detectable net loss or gain of natural CO2 by the ocean, albeit the large uncertainties could be masking it. Our reconstructions suggest substantial internal redistributions of natural oceanic CO2, with a shift from the mid-latitudes to the tropics and from the surface to below 200 m. Such redistributions correspond with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. The interannual variability of DIC is strongest in the tropical Western Pacific, consistent with the El Nino Southern Oscillation.

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Climate-driven changes of global marine mercury cycles in 2100


One concern caused by the changes in the ocean due to climate change is the potential increase of neurotoxic methylmercury content in seafood. This work quantifies the impact of global change factors on marine mercury cycles. The air–sea exchange is influenced by wind speed weakening and solubility drop of mercury due to seawater warming. The decreased biological pump shrinks the methylation substrate and causes weaker methylation. The advantageous light environment resulting from less attenuation by sea ice and phytoplankton increases the photodegradation potential for seawater methylmercury. Responses of seawater methylmercury can propagate to biota, which is also modulated by the changes in anthropogenic emissions and ocean ecology. Our results offer insight into interactions among different climate change stressors.


Human exposure to monomethylmercury (CH3Hg), a potent neurotoxin, is principally through the consumption of seafood. The formation of CH3Hg and its bioaccumulation in marine food webs experience ongoing impacts of global climate warming and ocean biogeochemistry alterations. Employing a series of sensitivity experiments, here we explicitly consider the effects of climate change on marine mercury (Hg) cycling within a global ocean model in the hypothesized twenty-first century under the business-as-usual scenario. Even though the overall prediction is subjected to significant uncertainty, we identify several important climate change impact pathways. Elevated seawater temperature exacerbates elemental Hg (Hg0) evasion, while decreased surface wind speed reduces air–sea exchange rates. The reduced export of particulate organic carbon shrinks the pool of potentially bioavailable divalent Hg (HgII) that can be methylated in the subsurface ocean, where shallower remineralization depth associated with lower productivity causes impairment of methylation activity. We also simulate an increase in CH3Hg photodemethylation potential caused by increased incident shortwave radiation and less attenuation by decreased sea ice and chlorophyll. The model suggests that these impacts can also be propagated to the CH3Hg concentration in the base of the marine food web. Our results offer insight into synergisms/antagonisms in the marine Hg cycling among different climate change stressors.

Continue reading ‘Climate-driven changes of global marine mercury cycles in 2100’

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