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Effects of Wind-Driven Lateral Upwelling on Estuarine Carbonate Chemistry

Citation: Li Ming , Li Renjian , Cai Wei-Jun , Testa Jeremy M. , Shen Chunqi, Effects of Wind-Driven Lateral Upwelling on Estuarine Carbonate Chemistry, Frontiers in Marine Science, Vol.7, 2020,

Estuaries are productive ecosystems that support extensive vertebrate and invertebrate communities, but some have suffered from an accelerated pace of acidification in their bottom waters. A major challenge in the study of estuarine acidification is strong temporal and spatial variability of carbonate chemistry resulting from a wide array of physical forces such as winds, tides and river flows. Most past studies of carbonate system dynamics were limited to the along channel direction, while lateral dynamics received less attention. Recent observations in Chesapeake Bay showed strong lateral asymmetry in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) and air-sea CO2 flux during a single wind event, but comparable responses to different wind events has yet to be investigated. In this work, a coupled hydrodynamic-carbonate chemistry model is used to understand wind-driven variability in the estuarine carbonate system. It is found that wind-driven lateral upwelling ventilates high DIC (Dissolved Inorganic Carbon) and CO2 deep water and raises surface pCO2, thereby modifying the air-sea CO2 flux. The upwelling also advects low pH water onto the adjacent shoals and reduces the aragonite saturation state Ωarag in these shallow water environments, producing large temporal pH fluctuations and low pH events. Regime diagrams are constructed to summarize the effects of wind events on temporal pH and Ωarag fluctuations and the lateral gradients in DIC, pH, and pCO2 in the estuary. This modeling study provides a mechanistic explanation for the observed wind-driven lateral variability in DIC and pCO2 and reproduces large pH and Ωarag fluctuations that could be driven by physical forcing. Given that current and historic mainstem Bay oyster beds are located in shallow shoals affected by this upwelling, a large fraction of the oyster beds (100–300 km2) could be exposed to carbonate mineral under-saturated (Ω<a⁢r⁢a⁢g1) conditions during wind events. This effect should be considered in the management of acidification-sensitive species in estuaries.

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The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) works to prepare society to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification and conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs. Learn more about the human connections and adaptation strategies from these efforts.

Adaptation approaches fostered by the OAP include:


Using models and research to understand the sensitivity of organisms and ecosystems to ocean acidification to make predictions about the future, allowing communities and industries to prepare


Using these models and predictions as tools to facilitate management strategies that will protect marine resources and communities from future changes


Developing innovative tools to help monitor ocean acidification and mitigate changing ocean chemistry locally


On the Road

Drive fuel-efficient vehicles or choose public transportation. Choose your bike or walk! Don't sit idle for more than 30 seconds. Keep your tires properly inflated.

With your Food Choices

Eat local- this helps cut down on production and transport! Reduce your meat and dairy. Compost to avoid food waste ending up in the landfill

With your Food Choices

Make energy-efficient choices for your appliances and lighting. Heat and cool efficiently! Change your air filters and program your thermostat, seal and insulate your home, and support clean energy sources

By Reducing Coastal Acidification

Reduce your use of fertilizers, Improve sewage treatment and run off, and Protect and restore coastal habitats

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You've taken the first step to learn more about ocean acidification - why not spread this knowledge to your community?

Every community has their unique culture, economy and ecology and what’s at stake from ocean acidification may be different depending on where you live.  As a community member, you can take a larger role in educating the public about ocean acidification. Creating awareness is the first step to taking action.  As communities gain traction, neighboring regions that share marine resources can build larger coalitions to address ocean acidification.  Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Work with informal educators, such as aquarium outreach programs and local non-profits, to teach the public about ocean acidification. Visit our Education & Outreach page to find the newest tools!
  2. Participate in habitat restoration efforts to restore habitats that help mitigate the effects of coastal acidification
  3. Facilitate conversations with local businesses that might be affected by ocean acidification, building a plan for the future.
  4. Partner with local community efforts to mitigate the driver behind ocean acidification  – excess CO2 – such as community supported agriculture, bike & car shares and other public transportation options.
  5. Contact your regional Coastal Acidification Network (CAN) to learn how OA is affecting your region and more ideas about how you can get involved in your community
       More for Taking Community Action