A Primer on Ocean Acidification. Steven D Hondt URI Graduate School of Oceanography

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1 A Primer on Ocean Acidification Steven D Hondt URI Graduate School of Oceanography

2 Key topics ph and CO 2 CO 2 in the deep ocean (the CCD) Human-caused ocean acidification Impacts of ph on marine life Natural variation in ph of estuaries A future mystery

3 Key topics ph and CO 2 CO 2 in the deep ocean (the CCD) Human-caused ocean acidification Impacts of ph on marine life Natural variation in ph of estuaries A future mystery

4 Acidity is measured as ph 14 drain cleaner ph=-log 10 [H + ] Increasing H + concentration 12 ammonia 8.1 present-day seawater 7 neutral (pure water) 5 black coffee 2 lemon juice 1 battery acid 0

5 Effect of CO 2 on ocean ph Carbon dioxide reacts with water to release hydrogen ions (H + ) and dissolved carbon species [mainly bicarbonate (HCO 3- )]. CO 2 + H 2 O <=> H + + HCO 3 - Some of the hydrogen ions react with carbonate (CO 3 2- ) to form bicarbonate. H + + CO 3 2- <=> HCO 3 - The double arrows (<=>) mean the reactions go both ways (the reactions are reversible)

6 Key topics ph and CO 2 CO 2 in the deep ocean (the CCD) Human-caused ocean acidification Impacts of ph on marine life Natural variation in ph of estuaries A future mystery

7 Much marine sediment is composed of carbonate (CaCO 3 ) microfossils Figure from Hull & Norris, 2009

8 Carbonate sediment is absent from very deep water At great depth, high pressure, low temperature & high CO 2 dissolve CaCO 3 sediment.

9 The Carbonate Compensation Depth (CCD) The depth below which seawater is too acid for CaCO 3 sediment to accumulate is the CCD.

10 Key topics ph and CO 2 CO 2 in the deep ocean (the CCD) Human-caused ocean acidification Impacts of ph on marine life Natural variation in ph of estuaries A future mystery

11 What happens to ph when you add CO 2 to the ocean? ph goes down because hydrogen ion concentration [H+] goes up (the reaction below goes to the right) CO 2 + H 2 O <=> H + + HCO 3 - What happens to ph when you remove CO 2 to the ocean? ph goes up because hydrogen ion concentration [H +] goes down (the reaction goes to the left) CO 2 + H 2 O <=> H + + HCO 3 -

12 Increasing atmospheric CO 2 Data from C.D. Keeling and others Figure from Doney & Levine, 2006

13 Surface-ocean CO 2 & ph scenarios Equilibrium ph Pre-industrial (280 ppm CO 2 ) Today (400 ppm) ph 2X today s CO 2 (780 ppm) All fossil fuel burned (1800 ppm) Seasurface ph in equilibrium with atmosphere will drop to 7.5 if we burn all fossil fuel in the next few hundred years.

14 Effect of CO 2 increase on the CCD If CO 2 rises significantly, the CCD will shallow (until enough CaCO 3 dissolves to neutralize the excess carbonic acid).

15 Key topics ph and CO 2 CO 2 in the deep ocean (the CCD) Human-caused ocean acidification Impacts of ph on marine life Natural variation in ph of estuaries A future mystery

16 Effects of ph on some marine organisms Larval (baby) and juvenile organisms are particularly affected by low ph At low ph, many fewer larvae (babies) of these species survived & the survivors were smaller & slower to develop (right) Talmadge et al., 2009

17 Effects of ph on some marine organisms Findley et al., 2009 Some adult organisms are unaffected by fairly low ph

18 Effects of ph on a scleractinian coral (Red Sea) Fine & Tschernov, 2007 At ph = 7.4, this coral lost its skeleton - and lived naked!

19 Effects of decreased ph on Marine Life Physiology (decreased respiration, tissue acidosis, decreased protein synthesis, increased photosynthesis) Effect on most marine organisms over projected CO 2 range unknown Reproduction (decreased sperm motility, increased larval mortality) Effect on most marine organisms over projected CO 2 range unknown Calcification (decreased precipitation & increased dissolution of carbonate shells, etc.) Effect on most marine organisms over projected CO 2 range unknown

20 Key topics ph and CO 2 CO 2 in the deep ocean (the CCD) Human-caused ocean acidification Impacts of ph on marine life Natural variation in ph of estuaries A future mystery

21 Present-day ph variation in Narragansett Bay (Potter Cove) All fossil fuel burned 2X today s CO 2 in atm Today Pre-industrial ph in equilibrium with atmosphere ph

22 Why does ph in Narragansett Bay deviate from equilibrium? Dissolved oxygen (% saturation) All data ph Dissolved oxygen (% saturation) Dissolved oxygen (% saturation) Daily and sub-daily variation Annual variation ph ph Clue: ph covaries with dissolved oxygen content

23 Why do ph and dissolved oxygen content co-vary in sea water? Respiration decreases ph and dissolved O 2 content. Photosynthesis increases ph and dissolved O 2 content. Why does ph in Narragansett Bay deviate from the level expected for dissolved CO 2 in equilibrium with atmosphere? ph in estuaries deviates from atmospheric equilibrium because organisms change the ph.

24 Atm CO 2 (ppm) * Potters Cove, RI ph variation in 3 estuaries ACE Basin, SC Padilla Bay, WA *Lines repeated on following slides

25 Key topics ph and CO 2 CO 2 in the deep ocean (the CCD) Human-caused ocean acidification Impacts of ph on marine life Natural variation in ph of estuaries A future mystery

26 Implications of present ph variation for future ph effects on marine life? 1. Organisms in estuaries are subject to a wide ph range. 2. ph will regularly get much lower in future estuaries than atmospheric equilibrium values. 3. Will these organisms be well adapted for actual future estuarine ph?

27

28 Variation in ph of many estuaries is predictable in time. Potters Cove, RI It covaries strongly with dissolved O 2 content. It varies subtly from estuary to estuary. It is primarily driven by the balance between photosynthesis and respiration. ACE Basin, SC Padilla Bay, WA

29 How will this variation affect future ph? Potter Cove predicted ph ph Pre-industrial 280 Today X today s CO 2 in atm 1800 All fossil fuel burned If present variation is due to respiration & photosynthesis future variation can be predicted by assuming similar respiration & photosynthesis in the future. Gray bars = ph range. White dots = ph in CO 2 equilibrium w/ atm. Black dots = average ph. Numbers = atmospheric CO 2 content (ppm).

30 Photosynthesis and respiration Photosynthesis creates biomass (organic matter) from light and simple chemicals The reaction for photosynthesis by tree leaves and most modern marine photosynthesizers is energy in the form of light + CO 2 + H 2 O > CH 2 O + O 2 (light + carbon dioxide + water is transformed to organic matter + oxygen) Respiration reverses the process For example, CH 2 O + O 2 > energy + CO 2 + H 2 O (organic matter + oxygen is transformed to energy + carbon dioxide + water)

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