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Study Of Estuaries Finds Lower Acidification Than In Oceans

Researchers looked at trends from data collected more than 20 years within the Neuse River Estuary-Pamlico Sound waters and Chesapeake Bay.

A study of the country’s two largest estuaries reveals that inshore coastal waters are not necessarily experiencing what scientists say is a worrisome global trend of increasingly acidic oceans.

The recently published paper is the latest in a small collection of studies highlighting the complexities of coastal zones onshore.

In this case, researchers looked at trends from data collected more than 20 years within the Neuse River Estuary-Pamlico Sound waters and Chesapeake Bay and found that things like nutrient pollution and algal blooms play a role in how carbon dioxide is dissolved in inland coastal waters.

Research Assistant Professor Nathan Hall with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City and co-author of the study explained that eutrophication is effectively causing, in some cases, estuarine waters to have lower acidification than that of the ocean.

Eutrophication happens in waters that become overloaded by nutrient runoff, leading to harmful algal blooms, fish kills and areas of low oxygen where aquatic life cannot survive.

Nathan Hall in the lab. Photo: UNC

“We think of ocean acidification as bad, eutrophication as bad,” Hall said. “But eutrophication also in these estuaries can prevent, at least in the surface layers, the effects of ocean acidification from showing up. So, it adds a lot of complexity in the coastal zone. It’s not just as simple as gauges going down everywhere because we’re pumping CO2 into the air. In a lot of cases estuaries, because we load them with so much organic matter and the rivers feeding into them usually have more CO2 than they can take to begin with, they usually are releasing CO2 back into the atmosphere.”

Continue reading at www.coastalreview.org

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