Coastal acidification trends and controls in a subtropical estuary, Tampa Bay, Florida USA

Florida Scientist
By: , and 


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Many coastal estuaries have experienced declines in pH over the past few decades due to coastal acidification. However, mean monthly water column pH values (collected during daylight hours) have increased in Tampa Bay, Florida over recent decades concurrent with seagrass recovery. We measured changes in carbonate system and water quality variables in Tampa Bay and the near-coastal Gulf of Mexico environment to quantify diurnal to seasonal trends, drivers, and controls of carbonate chemistry; identify exposure periods to low pH conditions; and to examine the potential for seagrasses to buffer acidification in Tampa Bay. Autonomous sensor packages deployed in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico from December 2017 to June 2020 recorded hourly measurements of seawater temperature, salinity, pressure, pHT (total scale), carbon dioxide (pCO2), dissolved oxygen (DO), and photosynthetically active radiation. Results indicated strong temperature and biological influence on DO, pHT, and pCO2 in Tampa Bay during the dry season, and only weak to moderate correlation of these variables with temperature and salinity during the wet season. Strong influence from biological processes during the wet season was coincident with spring-to-summer periods of maximum seagrass growth rates. Gulf of Mexico results indicated higher pHT and DO, and lower pCO2 than in Tampa Bay, with similar but attenuated seasonal variation. Results suggest potential benefits from seagrass photosynthesis increasing pHT, DO, and decreasing pCO2 in Tampa Bay, and delivery of high pHT, low pCO2 Gulf of Mexico water to Tampa Bay during flood tides. Approximately 30% of pHT and pCO2 data records collected in Tampa Bay were below pHT 7.900 and above pCO2 of 600 μatm, primarily during the wet season, indicating potential for dissolution of carbonate sediments that may also help buffer acidification conditions in Tampa.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Coastal acidification trends and controls in a subtropical estuary, Tampa Bay, Florida USA
Series title Florida Scientist
Volume 86
Issue 2
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Florida Academy of Sciences
Contributing office(s) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 214
Last page 228
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay
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