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  1. Engineered aeration is one solution for increasing oxygen concentrations in highly eutrophic estuaries that undergo seasonal hypoxia. Although there are various designs for engineered aeration, all approaches involve either destratification of the water column or direct injection of oxygen or air through fine bubble diffusion. To date, the effect of either approach on estuarine methane dynamics remains unknown. Here we tested the hypotheses that 1) bubble aeration will strip the water of methane and enhance the air-water methane flux to the atmosphere and 2) the addition of oxygen to the water column will enhance aerobic methane oxidation in the water column and potentially offset the air-water methane flux. These hypotheses were tested in Rock Creek, Maryland, a shallow-water sub-estuary to the Chesapeake Bay, using controlled, ecosystem-scale deoxygenation experiments where the water column and sediments were sampled in mid-summer, when aerators were ON, and then 1, 3, 7, and 13 days after the aerators were turned OFF. Experiments were performed under two system designs, large bubble and fine bubble approaches, using the same observational approach that combined discrete water sampling, long term water samplers (OsmoSamplers) and sediment porewater profiles. Regardless of aeration status, methane concentrations reached as high as 1,500 nmol L−1in the water column during the experiments and remained near 1,000 nmol L−1through the summer and into the fall. Since these concentrations are above atmospheric equilibrium of 3 nmol L−1, these data establish the sub-estuary as a source of methane to the atmosphere, with a maximum atmospheric flux as high as 1,500 µmol m−2d−1, which is comparable to fluxes estimated for other estuaries. Air-water methane fluxes were higher when the aerators were ON, over short time frames, supporting the hypothesis that aeration enhanced the atmospheric methane flux. The fine-bubble approach showed lower air-water methane fluxes compared to the larger bubble, destratification system. We found that the primary source of the methane was the sediments, however,in situmethane production or an upstream methane source could not be ruled out. Overall, our measurements of methane concentrations were consistently high in all times and locations, supporting consistent methane flux to the atmosphere.

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  2. Abstract

    In estuaries, local processes such as changing material loads from the watershed and complex circulation create dynamic environments with respect to ecosystem metabolism and carbonate chemistry that can strongly modulate impacts of global atmospheric CO2increases on estuarine pH. Long‐term (> 20 yr) surface water pH records from the USA's two largest estuaries, Chesapeake Bay (CB) and Neuse River Estuary‐Pamlico Sound (NRE‐PS) were examined to understand the relative importance of atmospheric forcing vs. local processes in controlling pH. At the estuaries’ heads, pH increases in CB and decreases in NRE‐PS were driven primarily by changing ratios of river alkalinity to dissolved inorganic carbon concentrations. In upper reaches of CB and middle reaches of the NRE‐PS, pH increases were associated with increases in phytoplankton biomass. There was no significant pH change in the lower NRE‐PS and only the polyhaline CB showed a pH decline consistent with ocean acidification. In both estuaries, interannual pH variability showed robust, positive correlations with chlorophylla(Chla) during the spring in mid to lower estuarine regions indicative of strong control by net phytoplankton production. During summer and fall, Chlaand pH negatively correlated in lower regions of both estuaries, given a shift toward heterotrophy driven by changes in phytoplankton community structure and increases in the load ratio of dissolved inorganic nitrogen to organic carbon. Tropical cyclones episodically depressed pH due to vertical mixing of CO2rich bottom waters and post‐storm terrestrial organic matter loading. Local processes we highlight represent a significant challenge for predicting future estuarine pH.

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  3. Abstract

    Seasonal deoxygenation in coastal and estuarine systems leads to decreased available habitat for many planktonic organisms. However, the volume of available habitat can be defined in different ways, depending on the oxygen metrics employed. Here, we used monitoring data for water quality to estimate the seasonal and inter-annual variability in habitat for the copepod Acartia tonsa in Chesapeake Bay, defined using three different oxygen metrics: a concentration-based (2 mg l−1) definition of hypoxia, and two partial pressure-based definitions corresponding to limiting oxygen demand (Pcrit), and the minimum requirement for respiration (Pleth). We examined spatial and temporal trends in the oxygen habitat, and compared habitat estimates to zooplankton abundance and distribution and in relation to hydrologically wet, average, and dry years. Pcrit predicted the largest volume of unsuitable deoxygenated habitat over space and time, and dry conditions were associated with a decreased extent of deoxygenated habitat compared to average and wet conditions. No clear relationship between copepod abundance and habitat availability was observed, but the position of peak abundance of A. tonsa correlated to the extent of deoxygenated habitat using Pcrit. Species-specific metrics to describe oxygen habitat may be more useful in understanding the non-lethal impacts of deoxygenation.

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  4. Many studies have examined the vulnerability of calcifying organisms, such as the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), to externally forced ocean acidification, but the opposite interaction whereby oysters alter their local carbonate conditions has received far less attention. We present an exploratory model for isolating the impact that net calcification and respiration of aquacultured eastern oysters can have on calcite and aragonite saturation states, in the context of varying temperature, ocean-estuary mixing, and air-sea gas exchange. We apply the model to the Damariscotta River Estuary in Maine which has experienced rapid expansion of oyster aquaculture in the last decade. Our model uses oyster shell growth over the summer season and a previously derived relationship between net calcification and respiration to quantify impacts of net oyster calcification and gross metabolism on carbonate saturation states in open tidal waters. Under 2018 industry size and climate conditions, we estimate that oysters can lower carbonate saturation states by up to 5% (i.e., 0.17 and 0.11 units on calcite and aragonite saturation states, respectively) per day in late summer, with an average of 3% over the growing season. Perturbations from temperature and air-sea exchange are similar in magnitude. Under 2050 climate conditions and 2018 industry size, calcite saturation state will decrease by up to an additional 0.54 units. If the industry expands 3-fold by 2050, the calcite and aragonite saturation states may decrease by 0.73 and 0.47 units, respectively, on average for the latter half of the growing season when compared to 2018 climate conditions and industry size. Collectively, our results indicate that dense aggregations of oysters can have a significant role on estuarine carbonate chemistry. 
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  5. Aquatic ecosystems are increasingly threatened by multiple human-induced stressors associated with climate and anthropogenic changes, including warming, nutrient pollution, harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and changes in CO 2 and pH. These stressors may affect systems additively and synergistically but may also counteract each other. The resultant ecosystem changes occur rapidly, affecting both biotic and abiotic components and their interactions. Moreover, the complexity of interactions increases as one ascends the food web due to differing sensitivities and exposures among life stages and associated species interactions, such as competition and predation. There is also a need to further understand nontraditional food web interactions, such as mixotrophy, which is the ability to combine photosynthesis and feeding by a single organism. The complexity of these interactions and nontraditional food webs presents challenges to ecosystem modeling and management. Developing ecological models to understand multistressor effects is further challenged by the lack of sufficient data on the effects of interactive stressors across different trophic levels and the substantial variability in climate changes on regional scales. To obtain data on a broad suite of interactions, a nested set of experiments can be employed. Modular, coupled, multitrophic level models will provide the flexibility to explore the additive, amplified, propagated, antagonistic, and/or reduced effects that can emerge from the interactions of multiple stressors. Here, the stressors associated with eutrophication and climate change are reviewed, and then example systems from around the world are used to illustrate their complexity and how model scenarios can be used to examine potential future changes. 
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  6. Oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) from the atmosphere has changed ocean biogeochemistry and threatened the health of organisms through a process known as ocean acidification (OA). Such large-scale changes affect ecosystem functions and can have impacts on societal uses, fisheries resources, and economies. In many large estuaries, anthropogenic CO 2 -induced acidification is enhanced by strong stratification, long water residence times, eutrophication, and a weak acid–base buffer capacity. In this article, we review how a variety of processes influence aquatic acid–base properties in estuarine waters, including coastal upwelling, river–ocean mixing, air–water gas exchange, biological production and subsequent aerobic and anaerobic respiration, calcium carbonate (CaCO 3 ) dissolution, and benthic inputs. We emphasize the spatial and temporal dynamics of partial pressure of CO 2 ( pCO 2 ), pH, and calcium carbonate mineral saturation states. Examples from three large estuaries—Chesapeake Bay, the Salish Sea, and Prince William Sound—are used to illustrate how natural and anthropogenic processes and climate change may manifest differently across estuaries, as well as the biological implications of OA on coastal calcifiers. 
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