Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2004 projects
Upper ocean biogeochemistry

Feasibility study of small-scale pH perturbation experiments in the upper ocean

Project Manager/Lead Scientist: Zbigniew Kolber
Lead Engineer: Denis Klimov

Anticipating the effects of CO2 loading on ocean biology represents one of the most important problems facing Environmental Science. Most of the excess anthropogenically-produced CO2 in the atmosphere will be absorbed in oceanic waters, decreasing the ocean’s pH by 0.3 to 0.5 units by the end of the century. Although laboratory studies have indicated complex patterns of pH-induced changes in biological activity, the mechanisms, the dynamics, and the extent of the expected responses in the natural environment remain unclear.We postulate that these responses can best be characterized from small-scale short-term Lagrangian pH perturbation experiments in the upper ocean. Our goal is to investigate whether such experiments are technically feasible, and to estimate the resources required for such an undertaking.

We will determine whether biophysical responses to pH changes in the upper ocean can be experimentally demonstrated using a modest amount of added CO2. We will identify the state variables representative for primary and secondary production in the upper ocean, and we will investigate how to measure these variables in situ, in context of the proposed experiment. Findings will be reported in the form of a feasibility study which will define the spatial and temporal scales of the perturbation experiments required to produce scientifically valid results, the technical challenges in performing such experiments, and the required logistic effort.

Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009