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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • Carbon sequestration
  • Carbon cycle (Biogeochemistry)

Index Terms

  • 1630 Global Change: Impacts of global change
  • 3339 Atmospheric Processes: Ocean/atmosphere interactions
  • 4806 Oceanography: Biological and Chemical: Carbon cycling



Present and future changes in seawater chemistry due to ocean acidification

Richard A. Feely

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, NOAA, Seattle, Washington, USA

James Orr

Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Unite Mixte de Recherche, CEA-CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

Victoria J. Fabry

Department of Biological Sciences, California State University San Marcos, California, USA

Joan A. Kleypas

Institute for the Study of Society and Environment, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Christopher L. Sabine

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, NOAA, Seattle, Washington, USA

Christopher Langdon

Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA

The oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2 changes the seawater chemistry and potentially can alter biological systems in the upper oceans. Estimates of future atmospheric and oceanic CO2 concentrations, based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emission scenarios, indicate that atmospheric CO2 levels could approach 800 ppm by the end of the century. Corresponding models for the oceans indicate that surface water pH would decrease by approximately 0.4 pH units, and the carbonate ion concentration would decrease by as much as 48% by the end of the century. The surface ocean pH would be lower than it has been for more than 20 million years. Such changes would significantly lower the ocean's buffering capacity, which would reduce its ability to accept more CO2 from the atmosphere. Recent field and laboratory studies reveal that the carbonate chemistry of seawater has a profound impact on the calcification rates of individual species and communities in both planktonic and benthic habitats. The calcification rates of nearly all calcifying organisms studied to date decrease in response to decreased carbonate ion concentration. In general, when pCO2 was increased to twice preindustrial levels, a decrease in the calcification rate ranging from about −5% to −60% was observed. Unless calcifying organisms can adapt to projected changes in seawater chemistry, there will likely be profound changes in the structure of pelagic and benthic marine ecosystems.

Citation: Feely, R. A., J. Orr, V. J. Fabry, J. A. Kleypas, C. L. Sabine, and C. Langdon (2009), Present and future changes in seawater chemistry due to ocean acidification, in Carbon Sequestration and Its Role in the Global Carbon Cycle, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 183, edited by B. J. McPherson and E. T. Sundquist, pp. 175–188, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2005GM000337.


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