Articles | Volume 14, issue 1
Research article
17 Jan 2017
Research article |  | 17 Jan 2017

Coral reef origins of atmospheric dimethylsulfide at Heron Island, southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Hilton B. Swan, Graham B. Jones, Elisabeth S. M. Deschaseaux, and Bradley D. Eyre

Abstract. Atmospheric dimethylsulfide (DMSa), continually derived from the world's oceans, is a feed gas for the tropospheric production of new sulfate particles, leading to cloud condensation nuclei that influence the formation and properties of marine clouds and ultimately the Earth's radiation budget. Previous studies on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia, have indicated coral reefs are significant sessile sources of DMSa capable of enhancing the tropospheric DMSa burden mainly derived from phytoplankton in the surface ocean; however, specific environmental evidence of coral reef DMS emissions and their characteristics is lacking. By using on-site automated continuous analysis of DMSa and meteorological parameters at Heron Island in the southern GBR, we show that the coral reef was the source of occasional spikes of DMSa identified above the oceanic DMSa background signal. In most instances, these DMSa spikes were detected at low tide under low wind speeds, indicating they originated from the lagoonal platform reef surrounding the island, although evidence of longer-range transport of DMSa from a 70 km stretch of coral reefs in the southern GBR was also observed. The most intense DMSa spike occurred in the winter dry season at low tide when convective precipitation fell onto the aerially exposed platform reef. This co-occurrence of events appeared to biologically shock the coral resulting in a seasonally aberrant extreme DMSa spike concentration of 45.9 nmol m−3 (1122 ppt). Seasonal DMS emission fluxes for the 2012 wet season and 2013 dry season campaigns at Heron Island were 5.0 and 1.4 µmol m−2 day−1, respectively, of which the coral reef was estimated to contribute 4 % during the wet season and 14 % during the dry season to the dominant oceanic flux.

Short summary
We measured the sulfur gas dimethylsulfide (DMS) in marine air at a coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef. DMS is well known to be released from the world's oceans, but environmental evidence of coral reefs releasing DMS has not been clearly demonstrated. We showed the coral reef can sometimes release DMS to the air, which was seen as spikes above the DMS released from the ocean. The DMS from the reef supplements the DMS from the ocean to assist formation of clouds that influence local climate.
Final-revised paper