Dissolution dominating calcification process in polar pteropods close to the point of aragonite undersaturation
Thecosome pteropods are abundant upper-ocean zooplankton that build aragonite shells. Ocean acidification results in the lowering of aragonite saturation levels in the surface layers, and several incubation studies have shown that rates of calcification in these organisms decrease as a result. This study provides a weight-specific net calcification rate function for thecosome pteropods that includes both rates of dissolution and calcification over a range of plausible future aragonite saturation states (Ωar). We measured gross dissolution in the pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica in the Scotia Sea (Southern Ocean) by incubating living specimens across a range of aragonite saturation states for a maximum of 14 days. Specimens started dissolving almost immediately upon exposure to undersaturated conditions (Ωar~0.8), losing 1.4% of shell mass per day. The observed rate of gross dissolution was different from that predicted by rate law kinetics of aragonite dissolution, in being higher at Ωar levels slightly above 1 and lower at Ωar levels of between 1 and 0.8. This indicates that shell mass is affected by even transitional levels of saturation, but there is, nevertheless, some partial means of protection for shells when in undersaturated conditions. A function for gross dissolution against Ωar derived from the present observations was compared to a function for gross calcification derived by a different study, and showed that dissolution became the dominating process even at Ωar levels close to 1, with net shell growth ceasing at an Ωar of 1.03. Gross dissolution increasingly dominated net change in shell mass as saturation levels decreased below 1. As well as influencing their viability, such dissolution of pteropod shells in the surface layers will result in slower sinking velocities and decreased carbon and carbonate fluxes to the deep ocean.
Authors: Bednarsek, Nina, Tarling, Geraint A., Bakker, Dorothee C. E., Fielding, Sophie, Feely, Richard A.