Reviews and Syntheses: Ocean acidification and its potential impacts on marine ecosystems
Abstract. Ocean acidification, a complex phenomenon that lowers seawater pH, is the net outcome of several contributions. They include the dissolution of increasing atmospheric CO2 that adds up with dissolved inorganic carbon (dissolved CO2, H2CO3, HCO3−, and CO32−) generated upon mineralization of primary producers (PP) and dissolved organic matter (DOM). The aquatic processes leading to inorganic carbon are substantially affected by increased DOM and nutrients via terrestrial runoff, acidic rainfall, increased PP and algal blooms, nitrification, denitrification, sulfate reduction, global warming (GW), and by atmospheric CO2 itself through enhanced photosynthesis. They are consecutively associated with enhanced ocean acidification, hypoxia in acidified deeper seawater, pathogens, algal toxins, oxidative stress by reactive oxygen species, and thermal stress caused by longer stratification periods as an effect of GW. We discuss the mechanistic insights into the aforementioned processes and pH changes, with particular focus on processes taking place with different timescales (including the diurnal one) in surface and subsurface seawater. This review also discusses these collective influences to assess their potential detrimental effects to marine organisms, and of ecosystem processes and services. Our review of the effects operating in synergy with ocean acidification will provide a broad insight into the potential impact of acidification itself on biological processes. The foreseen danger to marine organisms by acidification is in fact expected to be amplified by several concurrent and interacting phenomena.