skip to main content


Title: Quantification of the Dominant Drivers of Acidification in the Coastal Mid‐Atlantic Bight
Abstract

In shallow coastal shelves like the Mid‐Atlantic Bight (MAB), ocean acidification due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is compounded by highly variable coastal processes including riverine freshwater inputs, nutrient loading, biogeochemical influence, coastal currents and water mass mixing, and seasonal transitions in physical parameters. Past deconstructions of carbonate system drivers in the MAB have focused on nearshore zones or single season data, and thus lack the spatial and temporal resolution required to assess impacts to important species occupying the shelf. Deconstructing highly resolved data collected during four seasonal Slocum glider deployments in the MAB, this study uses a Taylor Series decomposition to quantify the influence of temperature, salinity, biogeochemical activity, and water mass mixing on pH and aragonite saturation state from sea surface to bottom. Results show that water mass mixing and biogeochemical activity were the most significant drivers of the carbonate system in the MAB. Nearshore water was more acidic year‐round due to riverine freshwater input, but photosynthesis reduced acidity at certain depths and times. Water mass mixing increased acidity in bottom water on the shelf, particularly in summer. Gulf Stream intrusions at the shelf break during fall acted to mitigate acidification on the shelf in habitats occupied by carbonate‐bearing organisms. The relationships quantified here can be used to improve biogeochemical forecast models and determine habitat suitability for commercially important fin and shellfish species residing in the MAB.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10379880
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Volume:
127
Issue:
11
ISSN:
2169-9275
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The hypoxic zone on the Louisiana Continental Shelf (LCS) forms each summer due to nutrient‐enhanced primary production and seasonal stratification associated with freshwater discharges from the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB). Recent field studies have identified highly productive shallow nearshore waters as an important component of shelf‐wide carbon production contributing to hypoxia formation. This study applied a three‐dimensional hydrodynamic‐biogeochemical model named CGEM (Coastal Generalized Ecosystem Model) to quantify the spatial and temporal patterns of hypoxia, carbon production, respiration, and transport between nearshore and middle shelf regions where hypoxia is most prevalent. We first demonstrate that our simulations reproduced spatial and temporal patterns of carbon production, respiration, and bottom‐water oxygen gradients compared to field observations. We used multiyear simulations to quantify transport of particulate organic carbon (POC) from nearshore areas where riverine organic matter and phytoplankton carbon production are greatest. The spatial displacement of carbon production and respiration in our simulations was created by westward and offshore POC flux via phytoplankton carbon flux in the surface layer and POC flux in the bottom layer, supporting heterotrophic respiration on the middle shelf where hypoxia is frequently observed. These results support existing studies suggesting the importance of offshore carbon flux to hypoxia formation, particularly on the west shelf where hypoxic conditions are most variable.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Understanding decadal changes in the coastal carbonate system is essential for predicting how the health of these waters responds to anthropogenic drivers, such as changing atmospheric conditions and riverine inputs. However, studies that quantify the relative impacts of these drivers are lacking. In this study, the primary drivers of decadal trends in the surface carbonate system, and the spatiotemporal variability in these trends, are identified for a large coastal plain estuary: the Chesapeake Bay. Experiments using a coupled three‐dimensional hydrodynamic‐biogeochemical model highlight that, over the past three decades, the changes in the surface carbonate system of Chesapeake Bay have strong seasonal and spatial variability. The greatest surface pH and aragonite saturation state (ΩAR) reductions have occurred in the summer in the middle (mesohaline) Bay: −0.24 and −0.9 per 30 years, respectively, with increases in atmospheric CO2and reductions in nitrate loading both being primary drivers. Reductions in nitrate loading have a strong seasonal influence on the carbonate system, with the most pronounced decadal decreases in pH and ΩARoccurring during the summer when primary production is strongly dependent on nutrient availability. Increases in riverine total alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon have raised surface pH in the upper oligohaline Bay, while other drivers such as atmospheric warming and input of acidified ocean water through the Bay mouth have had comparatively minor impacts on the estuarine carbonate system. This work has significant implications for estuarine ecosystem services, which are typically most sensitive to surface acidification in the spring and summer seasons.

     
    more » « less
  3. The United States Department of Energy (DOE)’s Ocean Margins Program (OMP) cruise EN279 in March 1996 provides an important baseline for assessing long-term changes in the carbon cycle and biogeochemistry in the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) as climate and anthropogenic changes have been substantial in this region over the past two decades. The distributions of O 2 , nutrients, and marine inorganic carbon system parameters are influenced by coastal currents, temperature gradients, and biological production and respiration. On the cross-shelf direction, pH decreases seaward, but carbonate saturation state (Ω Arag ) does not exhibit a clear trend. In contrast, Ω Arag increases from north to south, while pH has no clear spatial patterns in the along-shelf direction. In order to distinguish between the effects of physical mixing of various water masses and those of biological activities on the marine inorganic carbon system, we use the potential temperature-salinity diagram to identify water masses, and differences between observations and theoretical mixing concentrations to measure the non-conservative (primarily biological) effects. Our analysis clearly shows the degree to which ocean margin pH and Ω Arag are regulated by biological activities in addition to water mass mixing, gas exchange, and temperature. The correlations among anomalies in dissolved inorganic carbon, phosphate, nitrate, and apparent oxygen utilization agree with known biological stoichiometry. Biological uptake is substantial in nearshore waters and in shelf-slope mixing areas. This work provides valuable baseline information to assess the more recent changes in the marine inorganic carbon system and the status of coastal ocean acidification. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    In coastal regions and marginal bodies of water, the increase in partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) in many instances is greater than that of the open ocean due to terrestrial (river, estuarine, and wetland) influences, decreasing buffering capacity and/or increasing water temperatures. Coastal oceans receive freshwater from rivers and groundwater as well as terrestrial-derived organic matter, both of which have a direct influence on coastal carbonate chemistry. The objective of this research is to determine if coastal marshes in Georgia, USA, may be “hot-spots” for acidification due to enhanced inorganic carbon sources and if there is terrestrial influence on offshore acidification in the South Atlantic Bight (SAB). The results of this study show that dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA) are elevated in the marshes compared to predictions from conservative mixing of the freshwater and oceanic end-members, with accompanying pH around 7.2 to 7.6 within the marshes and aragonite saturation states (ΩAr) <1. In the marshes, there is a strong relationship between the terrestrial/estuarine-derived organic and inorganic carbon and acidification. Comparisons of pH, TA, and DIC to terrestrial organic material markers, however, show that there is little influence of terrestrial-derived organic matter on shelf acidification during this period in 2014. In addition, ΩArincreases rapidly offshore, especially in drier months (July). River stream flow during 2014 was anomalously low compared to climatological means; therefore, offshore influences from terrestrial carbon could also be decreased. The SAB shelf may not be strongly influenced by terrestrial inputs to acidification during drier than normal periods; conversely, shelf waters that are well-buffered against acidification may not play a significant role in mitigating acidification within the Georgia marshes.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract. The coastal ecosystem of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) is especially vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification and climate change. Detection of these long-term trends requires a good understanding of the system’s natural state. The GOA is a highly dynamic system that exhibits large inorganic carbon variability on subseasonal to interannual timescales. This variability is poorly understood due to the lack of observations in this expansive and remote region. We developed a new model setup for the GOA that couples the three-dimensional Regional Oceanic Model System (ROMS) and the Carbon, Ocean Biogeochemistry and Lower Trophic (COBALT) ecosystem model. To improve our conceptual understanding of the system, we conducted a hindcast simulation from 1980 to 2013. The model was explicitly forced with temporally and spatially varying coastal freshwater discharges from a high-resolution terrestrial hydrological model, thereby affecting salinity, alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon, and nutrient concentrations. This represents a substantial improvement over previous GOA modeling attempts. Here, we evaluate the model on seasonal to interannual timescales using the best available inorganic carbon observations. The model was particularly successful in reproducing observed aragonite oversaturation and undersaturation of near-bottom water in May and September, respectively. The largest deficiency in the model is its inability to adequately simulate springtime surface inorganic carbon chemistry, as it overestimates surface dissolved inorganic carbon, which translates into an underestimation of the surface aragonite saturation state at this time. We also use the model to describe the seasonal cycle and drivers of inorganic carbon parameters along the Seward Line transect in under-sampled months. Model output suggests that the majority of the near-bottom water along the Seward Line is seasonally undersaturated with respect to aragonite between June and January, as a result of upwelling and remineralization. Such an extensive period of reoccurring aragonite undersaturation may be harmful to ocean acidification-sensitive organisms. Furthermore, the influence of freshwater not only decreases the aragonite saturation state in coastal surface waters in summer and fall, but it simultaneously decreases the surface partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2), thereby decoupling the aragonite saturation state from pCO2. The full seasonal cycle and geographic extent of the GOA region is under-sampled, and our model results give new and important insights for months of the year and areas that lack in situ inorganic carbon observations. 
    more » « less