Benthic marine calcifiers coexist with CaCO3-undersaturated seawater worldwide

Lebrato, M, Andersson AJ, Ries JB, Aronson RB, Lamare MD, Koeve W, Oschlies A, Iglesias-Rodriguez MD, Thatje S, Amsler M, Vos SC, Jones DOB, Ruhl HA, Gates AR, McClintock JB.  2016.  Benthic marine calcifiers coexist with CaCO3-undersaturated seawater worldwide. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 30:1038-1053.

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0414 Biogeochemical cycles, processes, and modeling, 0428 Carbon cycling, 0429 Climate dynamics, 0460 Marine systems, benthic, Mg-calcite, mineralogy, ocean acidification, saturation state


Ocean acidification and decreasing seawater saturation state with respect to calcium carbonate (CaCO3) minerals have raised concerns about the consequences to marine organisms that build CaCO3 structures. A large proportion of benthic marine calcifiers incorporate Mg2+ into their skeletons (Mg-calcite), which, in general, reduces mineral stability. The relative vulnerability of some marine calcifiers to ocean acidification appears linked to the relative solubility of their shell or skeletal mineralogy, although some organisms have sophisticated mechanisms for constructing and maintaining their CaCO3 structures causing deviation from this dependence. Nevertheless, few studies consider seawater saturation state with respect to the actual Mg-calcite mineralogy (ΩMg-x) of a species when evaluating the effect of ocean acidification on that species. Here, a global dataset of skeletal mole % MgCO3 of benthic calcifiers and in situ environmental conditions spanning a depth range of 0 m (subtidal/neritic) to 5600 m (abyssal) was assembled to calculate in situ ΩMg-x. This analysis shows that 24% of the studied benthic calcifiers currently experience seawater mineral undersaturation (ΩMg-x < 1). As a result of ongoing anthropogenic ocean acidification over the next 200 to 3000 years, the predicted decrease in seawater mineral saturation will expose approximately 57% of all studied benthic calcifying species to seawater undersaturation. These observations reveal a surprisingly high proportion of benthic marine calcifiers exposed to seawater that is undersaturated with respect to their skeletal mineralogy, underscoring the importance of using species-specific seawater mineral saturation states when investigating the impact of CO2-induced ocean acidification on benthic marine calcification.