Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
Research article
03 Jun 2013
Research article |  | 03 Jun 2013

Emission of atmospherically significant halocarbons by naturally occurring and farmed tropical macroalgae

Emma C. Leedham Elvidge, C. Hughes, F. S. L. Keng, S.-M. Phang, G. Malin, and W. T. Sturges

Abstract. Current estimates of global halocarbon emissions highlight the tropical coastal environment as an important source of very short-lived (VSL) biogenic halocarbons to the troposphere and stratosphere, due to a combination of assumed high primary productivity in tropical coastal waters and the prevalence of deep convective transport, potentially capable of rapidly lifting surface emissions to the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere. However, despite this perceived importance, direct measurements of tropical coastal biogenic halocarbon emissions, notably from macroalgae (seaweeds), have not been made. In light of this, we provide the first dedicated study of halocarbon production by a range of 15 common tropical macroalgal species and compare these results to those from previous studies of polar and temperate macroalgae. Variation between species was substantial; CHBr3 production rates, measured at the end of a 24 h incubation, varied from 1.4 to 1129 pmol g FW−1 h−1 (FW = fresh weight of sample). We used our laboratory-determined emission rates to estimate emissions of CHBr3 and CH2Br2 (the two dominant VSL precursors of stratospheric bromine) from the coastlines of Malaysia and elsewhere in South East Asia (SEA). We compare these values to previous top-down model estimates of emissions from these regions and, by using several emission scenarios, we calculate an annual CHBr3 emission of 40 (6–224 Mmol Br−1 yr), a value that is lower than previous estimates. The contribution of tropical aquaculture to current emission budgets is also considered. Whilst the current aquaculture contribution to halocarbon emissions in this regional is small, the potential exists for substantial increases in aquaculture to make a significant contribution to regional halocarbon budgets.

Final-revised paper