Mg-calcite dissolution in carbonate sediments: role in ocean acidification

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Patrick S Drupp, Eric Heinen De Carlo and Fred T Mackenzie, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, United States
An array of porewater wells at two locations on Hawaiian reefs have been utilized to obtain interstitial pore fluid from various depths in permeable sandy sediments. The total alkalinity (AT) and pH (total scale) were measured for each sample (depths 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 20, 30, 40, and 60 cm) as well as calcium, magnesium, and strontium concentrations. Ca2+ and Mg2+ concentrations co-vary and appear to be directly related to AT and pH. The ratio of the change in calcium and magnesium (ΔCa, ΔMg) between the overlying water column and the porewater indicates that an 18 mol % Mg-calcite phase is dissolving within the sediment column. This could represent the dissolution of coralline algae such as Porolithon or Lithothamnion both of which produce ~18% Mg-calcite skeletons and are present on Hawaiian reefs. The small changes in Mg concentrations from dissolution/precipitation of high Mg-calcites is typically difficult to measure against the high background matrix of seawater and to our knowledge these data represent some of the first magnesium concentrations measured in permeable sediments.

Saturation state (Ω) for Mg-calcites was calculated using both sets of stoichiometric solubility products (K) widely accepted in the literature. Depending on the K used, most of the porewater was undersaturated with respect to the high Mg calcites (>12%). Saturation states were determined using an ion activity product (IAP) calculated from the measured values of calcium and magnesium. This produces a more accurate Ω than assuming calcium and magnesium concentrations based on salinity, as is typically done in surface waters. As surface water becomes more corrosive to carbonate minerals due to enhanced ocean acidification through the next century, it is expected that dissolution of both biogenic high Mg-calcites and abiotic Mg-calcite cements will increase, potentially destabilizing reef framework and altering the biogeochemical cycling of carbon in these environments.