Uptake of anthropogenic CO2 and ocean acidification along the West Antarctic Peninsula by Elizabeth Jones from Groningen University

The polar oceans are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification; the lowering of seawater pH due to uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). High spatial and seasonal variability in oceanic CO2-carbonate chemistry has been documented along the West Antarctic Peninsula, a key region for high rates of biological production and CO2 uptake that has experienced rapid climate changes. Glacial meltwater and melting sea ice stratify the water column and facilitate the development of large phytoplankton blooms, driving intense carbon uptake during spring and summer. Deep mixing, remineralisation and sea ice cover during winter allow CO2 to accumulate and create regions of low pH in the upper ocean. This has implications for the marine ecosystem and provides an ideal ‘natural laboratory’ to study the resilience of organisms to shifts in ocean chemistry. Limited data in the dynamic coastal zone and from ice-covered winter waters make it difficult to better understand and accurately predict how carbon cycling and marine organisms will respond to future ocean acidification in the highly productive Antarctic coastal zone.

The aim of IMCONet visit to the United States was to link CO2-carbonate chemistry data from surface-to-deep, offshore-onshore transects along the West Antarctic Peninsula and an upper ocean time series from Rothera Research Station, a coastal site in the southern West Antarctic Peninsula, to:

(i)            observations from the Palmer Station Antarctica Long Term Ecological Research (Palmer-LTER) cruises to place the work into a wider regional and temporal context.

(ii)           fine-tune the REcoM-2 ecosystem model as a predictive tool to explore the response of biogeochemical cycles along the West Antarctic Peninsula to future climate change.

This work was centred around data exchange and discussions with Dr. Hugh Ducklow, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, New York. The oceanic CO2 observations along the West Antarctic Peninsula were collected onboard FS Polarstern as part of postdoctoral work at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, in collaboration with the AWI in 2011. The oceanic CO2 time series data at Rothera Research Station is part of postdoctoral work at the University of Groningen (Netherlands Polar Programme) in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, 2014-present.

The data sets compliment the long-term Pal-LTER data by providing additional resolution along the West Antarctic Peninsula and shipboard sea surface partial pressure of CO2 data collected as part of the Palmer-LTER survey helped to place the Rothera time series work into a larger regional context. As such, we were able to use the data in the following manuscript that was recently submitted for publication:

E. Jones, M. Fenton, M.P. Meredith, N. Clargo, S. Ossebaar, H.W. Ducklow, H.J. Venables, H.J.W. de Baar. Ocean acidification and carbonate saturation states in the coastal zone of the West Antarctic Peninsula. Deep-Sea Research II, in review.

 The REcoM-2 model is currently being run in the group of Dr. Scott Doney, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, using inputs based on existing Palmer-LTER data, where gaps remain in coastal areas and in the deep ocean. The model has a biogeochemical component to reproduce seasonal cycles and inter-annual variability in marine biogeochemical (carbon and nutrient) cycles in a changing Antarctic coastal environment. The objective is to better replicate and thus predict CO2 cycling in this region, work is ongoing.

One of the highlights was spending time with Hugh Ducklow, and his wife Beverly, in New York, where I had the opportunity to meet and have discussions with several leading scientists at Lamont-Doherty. I very much enjoyed my free-time in New York too, exploring the city and visiting several of the famous and iconic buildings and landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty and One World Trade Centre. The whole experience was very enriching and memorable and I look forward to continued collaboration in the future.

One of the highlights was spending time with Hugh Ducklow, and his wife Beverly, in New York, where I had the opportunity to meet and have discussions with several leading scientists at Lamont-Doherty. I very much enjoyed my free-time in New York too, exploring the city and visiting several of the famous and iconic buildings and landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty and One World Trade Centre. The whole experience was very enriching and memorable and I look forward to continued collaboration in the future.

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