Ocean alkalinity enhancement using sodium carbonate salts does not impact Fe dynamics in a mesocosm experiment
Abstract. The addition of carbonate minerals to seawater through an artificial Ocean Alkalinization Enhancement (OAE) process increases the concentrations of hydroxide, bicarbonate, and carbonate ions. This leads to changes in the pH and the buffering capacity of the seawater. Consequently, OAE could have relevant effects on marine organisms and in the speciation and concentration of trace metals that are essential for their physiology. During September and October 2021, a mesocosm experiment was carried out in the coastal waters of Gran Canaria (Spain), consisting of different levels of total alkalinity (TA). Different concentrations of carbonate salts (NaHCO3 and Na2CO3) previously homogenized were added to each mesocosm to achieve an alkalinity gradient between ∆0 to 2400 μmol L-1. The lowest point of the gradient was 2400 µmol kg-1, being the natural alkalinity of the medium, and the highest point was 4800 µmol kg-1. Iron (Fe) speciation was monitored during this experiment to analyse whether total dissolved iron (TdFe), dissolved iron (dFe), soluble iron (sFe), dissolved labile iron (dFe´), iron-binding ligands (LFe) and their conditional stability constants (K'FeL), could change because of OAE and the experimental conditions in each mesocosm. Observed iron concentrations were within the expected range for coastal waters, with no significant increases due to OAE. However, there were variations in Fe size fractionation during the experiment. This could potentially be due to chemical changes caused by OAE, but such effect being masked by the stronger biological interactions. In terms of size fractionation, sFe was below 1 nmol L-1, dFe concentrations were within 0.5-4.0 nmol L-1, and TdFe within 1.5-7.5 nmol L-1. Our results show that over 99 % of Fe was complexed, mainly by L1 and L2 ligands with k´Fe’L ranging between 10.92±0.11 and 12.68±0.32, with LFe ranging from 1.51±0.18 to 12.3±1.8 nmol L-1. Our data on iron size fractionation, concentration, and iron-binding ligands substantiate that the introduction of sodium salts in this mesocosm experiment did not modify iron dynamics. As a consequence, phytoplankton remained unaffected by alterations in this crucial element.
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