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Ocean warming-acidification synergism undermines dissolved organic matter assembly.

  • Author(s): Chen, Chi-Shuo
  • Anaya, Jesse M
  • Chen, Eric Y-T
  • Farr, Erik
  • Chin, Wei-Chun
  • et al.
Abstract

Understanding the influence of synergisms on natural processes is a critical step toward determining the full-extent of anthropogenic stressors. As carbon emissions continue unabated, two major stressors--warming and acidification--threaten marine systems on several scales. Here, we report that a moderate temperature increase (from 30°C to 32°C) is sufficient to slow--even hinder--the ability of dissolved organic matter, a major carbon pool, to self-assemble to form marine microgels, which contribute to the particulate organic matter pool. Moreover, acidification lowers the temperature threshold at which we observe our results. These findings carry implications for the marine carbon cycle, as self-assembled marine microgels generate an estimated global seawater budget of ~1016 g C. We used laser scattering spectroscopy to test the influence of temperature and pH on spontaneous marine gel assembly. The results of independent experiments revealed that at a particular point, both pH and temperature block microgel formation (32°C, pH 8.2), and disperse existing gels (35°C). We then tested the hypothesis that temperature and pH have a synergistic influence on marine gel dispersion. We found that the dispersion temperature decreases concurrently with pH: from 32°C at pH 8.2, to 28°C at pH 7.5. If our laboratory observations can be extrapolated to complex marine environments, our results suggest that a warming-acidification synergism can decrease carbon and nutrient fluxes, disturbing marine trophic and trace element cycles, at rates faster than projected.

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