Carbon Cycling in Canadian Coastal Waters: Process Studies of the Scotian Shelf and the Southeastern Beaufort Sea
Shadwick, Elizabeth Henderson
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Much research has been devoted to understanding the ocean carbon cycle because of its prominent role in controlling global climate. Coastal oceans remain a source of uncertainty in global ocean carbon budgets due to their individual characteristics and their high spatial and temporal variability. Recent attempts to establish general patterns suggest that temperate and high-latitude coastal oceans act as sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). In this thesis, carbon cycling in two Canadian coastal ocean regions is investigated, and the uptake of atmospheric CO2 is quantified. A combination of ship-board measurements and highly temporally resolved data from an autonomous mooring was used to quantify the seasonal to multi-annual variability in the inorganic carbon system in the Scotian Shelf region of the northwestern Atlantic for the first time. The Scotian Shelf, unlike other shelf seas at similar latitude, acts as a source of CO2 to the atmosphere, with fluxes varying over two orders of magnitude in space and time between 1999 and 2008. The first observations of the inorganic carbon system in the Amundsen Gulf region of the southern Beaufort Sea, covering the full annual cycle, are also presented. Air-sea CO2 fluxes are computed and a carbon budget is balanced. The Amundsen Gulf system acts as a moderate sink for atmospheric CO2; seasonal ice-cover limits winter CO2 uptake despite the continued undersaturation of the surface waters. Biological production precedes the ice break-up, and the growth of under-ice algae constitutes nearly 40% of the annual net community production. The Scotian Shelf may be described as an estuarine system with an outflow of surface water, and intrusion of carbon-rich subsurface water by a combination of wind-driven mixing, upwelling and convection, which fuels the CO2 release to the atmosphere. In contrast, Amundsen Gulf may be described as an anti-estuarine, or downwelling, system, with an inflow of surface waters and an outflow of subsurface waters. Wind-driven and convective mixing are inhibited by ice-cover and restrict the intrusion of carbon- and nutrient-rich waters from below, maintaining the CO2 uptake by the surface waters.