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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 23;8(4):e62689. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062689. Print 2013.

Extreme variations of pCO2 and pH in a macrophyte meadow of the Baltic Sea in summer: evidence of the effect of photosynthesis and local upwelling.

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Benthic Ecology group, GEOMAR: Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.


The impact of ocean acidification on benthic habitats is a major preoccupation of the scientific community. However, the natural variability of pCO2 and pH in those habitats remains understudied, especially in temperate areas. In this study we investigated temporal variations of the carbonate system in nearshore macrophyte meadows of the western Baltic Sea. These are key benthic ecosystems, providing spawning and nursery areas as well as food to numerous commercially important species. In situ pCO2, pH (total scale), salinity and PAR irradiance were measured with a continuous recording sensor package dropped in a shallow macrophyte meadow (Eckernförde bay, western Baltic Sea) during three different weeks in July (pCO2 and PAR only), August and September 2011.The mean (± SD) pCO2 in July was 383±117 µatm. The mean (± SD) pCO2 and pH(tot) in August were 239±20 µatm and 8.22±0.1, respectively. The mean (± SD) pCO2 and pH(tot) in September were 1082±711 µatm and 7.83±0.40, respectively. Daily variations of pCO2 due to photosynthesis and respiration (difference between daily maximum and minimum) were of the same order of magnitude: 281±88 µatm, 219±89 μatm and 1488±574 µatm in July, August and September respectively. The observed variations of pCO2 were explained through a statistical model considering wind direction and speed together with PAR irradiance. At a time scale of days to weeks, local upwelling of elevated pCO2 water masses with offshore winds drives the variation. Within days, primary production is responsible. The results demonstrate the high variability of the carbonate system in nearshore macrophyte meadows depending on meteorology and biological activities. We highlight the need to incorporate these variations in future pCO2 scenarios and experimental designs for nearshore habitats.

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