Implications of observed inconsistencies in carbonate chemistry measurements for ocean acidification studies
Abstract. The growing field of ocean acidification research is concerned with the investigation of organism responses to increasing pCO2 values. One important approach in this context is culture work using seawater with adjusted CO2 levels. As aqueous pCO2 is difficult to measure directly in small-scale experiments, it is generally calculated from two other measured parameters of the carbonate system (often AT, CT or pH). Unfortunately, the overall uncertainties of measured and subsequently calculated values are often unknown. Especially under high pCO2, this can become a severe problem with respect to the interpretation of physiological and ecological data. In the few datasets from ocean acidification research where all three of these parameters were measured, pCO2 values calculated from AT and CT are typically about 30% lower (i.e. ~300 μatm at a target pCO2 of 1000 μatm) than those calculated from AT and pH or CT and pH. This study presents and discusses these discrepancies as well as likely consequences for the ocean acidification community. Until this problem is solved, one has to consider that calculated parameters of the carbonate system (e.g. pCO2, calcite saturation state) may not be comparable between studies, and that this may have important implications for the interpretation of CO2 perturbation experiments.