Ocean Acidification and Control of Reef Coral Calcification by Boundary Layer Limitation of Proton Flux
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the concentration of atmospheric CO2 has been rising due to the burning of fossil fuels. increased absorption of this CO2 by the oceans is lowering the seawater pH and aragonite saturation state (Ωar). This process is known as ocean acidification (OA). numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between declining ocean pH, declining Ωar, and declining coral growth, but the mechanism is not understood. Various experiments designed to evaluate the relative importance of pH, CO3 2–, Ωar, HCO3 –, aqueous CO2, total alkalinity, and total inorganic carbon (Ct) to coral calcification have led to opposing conclusions. A reanalysis of existing data suggests that the mechanism is diffusion limitation of net H+ transport through the boundary layer caused by increasing [H+] in the water column. The resulting “proton flux hypothesis” offers an explanation for the reduction in calcification caused by OA and other phenomena associated with increasing acidification. The hypothesis states that the lowered calcification rate observed in corals under increasing conditions of OA can be attributed to higher [H+] in the seawater with consequent decrease in the efflux of H+ through the boundary layer.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: July 1, 2011
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