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Keywords:

  • biogeochemistry;
  • carbon;
  • carbonate chemistry;
  • ocean acidification;
  • sulphur hexafluoride;
  • upwelling

[1] The Mauritanian upwelling system is one of the most biologically productive regions of the world's oceans. Coastal upwelling transfers nutrients to the sun-lit surface ocean, thereby stimulating phytoplankton growth. Upwelling of deep waters also supplies dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), high levels of which lead to low calcium carbonate saturation states in surface waters, with potentially adverse effects on marine calcifiers. In this study an upwelled filament off the coast of northwest Africa was followed using drifting buoys and sulphur hexafluoride to determine how the carbonate chemistry changed over time as a result of biological, physical and chemical processes. The initial pHtot in the mixed layer of the upwelled plume was 7.94 and the saturation states of calcite and aragonite were 3.4 and 2.2, respectively. As the plume moved offshore over a period of 9 days, biological uptake of DIC (37 μmol kg−1) reduced pCO2 concentrations from 540 to 410 μatm, thereby increasing pHtot to 8.05 and calcite and aragonite saturation states to 4.0 and 2.7 respectively. The increase (25 μmol kg−1) in total alkalinity over the 9 day study period can be accounted for solely by the combined effects of nitrate uptake and processes that alter salinity (i.e., evaporation and mixing with other water masses). We found no evidence of significant alkalinity accumulation as a result of exudation of organic bases by primary producers. The ongoing expansion of oxygen minimum zones through global warming will likely further reduce the CaCO3 saturation of upwelled waters, amplifying any adverse consequences of ocean acidification on the ecosystem of the Mauritanian upwelling system.