National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2015

Evidence of prolonged aragonite undersaturations in the bottom waters of the southern Bering Sea shelf from autonomous sensors

Mathis, J.T., J.N. Cross, N. Monacci, R.A. Feely, and P.J. Stabeno

Deep-Sea Res. II, 109, 125–133, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2013.07.019 (2014)

The southeastern shelf of the Bering Sea is a dynamic area that experiences seasonal variability in primary production and remineralization of organic matter, both of which control the carbon biogeochemistry of the water column. Surface-water partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) is greatly reduced in summer by biological production, which increases carbonate mineral saturation states (Ω). In contrast, the export of large quantities of organic matter from surface blooms drives an active remineralization loop that sharply increases pCO2 near the bottom, lowering pH and suppressing Ω. New observations from moored biogeochemical sensors in 2011 showed that seasonal net community production lowers surface-water pCO2, causing large gradients between the ocean and atmosphere that are sustained throughout the summer, confirming that these waters likely remain supersaturated with respect to aragonite throughout the open water season. On the other hand, moored sensors deployed near the bottom showed that pCO2 levels exceed 500 μatm by early June and remain at these high levels well into the autumn months, indicating that the bottom waters are likely continuously undersaturated in aragonite for at least several months during each year. Only a small fraction of the increased pCO2 can currently be attributed to the intrusion of anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere, while the majority is due to natural respiration processes. The biological impacts, along with the timing and duration of these undersaturation events, could play a role in the development of larval and juvenile calcifiers in the region and will change as anthropogenic CO2 concentrations continue to rise.

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