Biogeochemical context impacts seawater pH changes resulting from atmospheric sulfur and nitrogen deposition

Mathilde Hagens*, Keith A. Hunter, Peter S. Liss, Jack J. Middelburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Seawater acidification can be induced both by absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and by atmospheric deposition of sulfur and nitrogen oxides and ammonia. Their relative significance, interplay, and dependency on water column biogeochemistry are not well understood. Using a simple biogeochemical model we show that the initial conditions of coastal systems are not only relevant for CO2-induced acidification but also for additional acidification due to atmospheric acid deposition. Coastal areas undersaturated with respect to CO2 are most vulnerable to CO 2-induced acidification but are relatively least affected by additional atmospheric deposition-induced acidification. In contrast, the pH of CO2-supersaturated systems is most sensitive to atmospheric deposition. The projected increment in atmospheric CO2 by 2100 will increase the sensitivity of coastal systems to atmospheric deposition-induced acidification by up to a factor 4, but the additional annual change in proton concentration is at most 28%. Key Points Seawater acidification by absorption of CO2 and atmospheric deposition co-occur CO2- supersaturated seawater is especially susceptible to atmospheric deposition By 2100 coastal seas become more sensitive to any proton transferring process

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)935-941
Number of pages7
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • atmospheric acid deposition
  • buffering capacity
  • carbon dioxide
  • ocean acidification
  • pH


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