Temporal changes in seawater carbonate chemistry and carbon export from a Southern California estuary

Paulsen, ML, Andersson AJ, Aluwihare L, Cyronak T, D'Angelo S, Davidson C, Elwany H, Giddings SN, Page HN, Porrachia M, Schroeter S.  2018.  Temporal changes in seawater carbonate chemistry and carbon export from a Southern California estuary. Estuaries and Coasts. 41:1050-1068.

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Alkalinity, atmospheric co2, Carbon export, Carbon fluxes, coastal ocean, dissolved inorganic carbon, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, estuary, german wadden sea, groundwater discharge, Marine & Freshwater Biology, organic-carbon, Salt Marshes, storm, sw iberian peninsula, total, total alkalinity, york river estuary


Estuaries are important subcomponents of the coastal ocean, but knowledge about the temporal and spatial variability of their carbonate chemistry, as well as their contribution to coastal and global carbon fluxes, are limited. In the present study, we measured the temporal and spatial variability of biogeochemical parameters in a saltmarsh estuary in Southern California, the San Dieguito Lagoon (SDL). We also estimated the flux of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total organic carbon (TOC) to the adjacent coastal ocean over diel and seasonal timescales. The combined net flux of DIC and TOC (FDIC + TOC) to the ocean during outgoing tides ranged from - 1.8 +/- 0.5 x 10(3) to 9.5 +/- 0.7 x 10(3) mol C h(-1) during baseline conditions. Based on these fluxes, a rough estimate of the net annual export of DIC and TOC totaled 10 +/- 4 x 10(6) mol C year(-1). Following a major rain event (36 mm rain in 3 days), FDIC + TOC increased and reached values as high as 29.0 +/- 0.7 x 10(3) mol C h(-1). Assuming a hypothetical scenario of three similar storm events in a year, our annual net flux estimate more than doubled to 25 +/- 4 x 10(6) mol C year(-1). These findings highlight the importance of assessing coastal carbon fluxes on different timescales and incorporating event scale variations in these assessments. Furthermore, for most of the observations elevated levels of total alkalinity (TA) and pH were observed at the estuary mouth relative to the coastal ocean. This suggests that SDL partly buffers against acidification of adjacent coastal surface waters, although the spatial extent of this buffering is likely small.