Latest Panel research: “Vulnerability of a semi-enclosed estuarine sea to ocean acidification in contrast with hypoxia”

Vulnerability of a semi-enclosed estuarine sea to ocean acidification in contrast with hypoxia

Geophysical Research Letter

Authors

Debby Ianson, Susan E. Allen, Benjamin L. Moore-Maley, Sophia C. Johannessen, Robie W. Macdonald

Abstract

The Strait of Georgia (SoG) is a large semi-enclosed estuary that spatially dominates the Salish Sea on the North American Pacific coast. The region is well-populated, harbours significant aquaculture, and is vulnerable to climate change. We present the first inorganic carbon data collected in the SoG covering all seasons (2003, 2010–2012) and put them into the context of local circulation and oxygen cycles. Results show that the SoG has a higher carbon content and lower pH than surrounding waters. Aragonite saturation horizons in the SoG do not become deeper than 20–30 m and shoal to the surface for extended periods. Furthermore, incoming upwelled ‘acidified’ water from the outer coast actually increases local pH. Finally, intense mixing in the physically-restricted channels connecting the SoG to the outer coast allows significant oxygen uptake but minimal CO2 out-gassing, protecting the SoG from hypoxia, but not from ocean acidification.

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