Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 56, Issue 7, pp 676–684 | Cite as

Coral reef ecosystems in the South China Sea as a source of atmospheric CO2 in summer

  • HongQiang Yan
  • KeFu YuEmail author
  • Qi Shi
  • YeHui Tan
  • HuiLing Zhang
  • MeiXia Zhao
  • Shu Li
  • TianRan Chen
  • LingYing Huang
  • PinXian Wang
Open Access
Article Oceanology


Field measurements of air-sea CO2 exchange in three coral reef areas of the South China Sea (i.e. the Yongshu Reef atoll of the Nansha Islands, southern South China Sea (SCS); Yongxing Island of Xisha Islands, north-central SCS; and Luhuitou Fringing Reef in Sanya of Hainan Island, northern SCS) during the summers of 2008 and 2009 revealed that both air and surface seawater partial pressures of CO2 (pCO2) showed regular diurnal cycles. Minimum values occurred in the evening and maximum values in the morning. Air pCO2 in each of the three study areas showed small diurnal variations, while large diurnal variations were observed in seawater pCO2. The diurnal variation amplitude of seawater pCO2 was ∼70 μmol mol−1 at the Yongshu Reef lagoon, 420–619 μmol mol−1 on the Yongxing Island reef flat, and 264–579 μmol mol−1 on the reef flat of the Luhuitou Fringing Reef, and 324–492 μmol mol−1 in an adjacent area just outside of this fringing reef. With respect to spatial relations, there were large differences in air-sea CO2 flux across the South China Sea (e.g. ∼0.4 mmol CO2 m−2 d−1 at Yongshu Reef, ∼4.7 mmol CO2 m−2 d−1 at Yongxing Island, and ∼9.8 mmol CO2 m−2 d−1 at Luhuitou Fringing Reef). However, these positive values suggest that coral reef ecosystems of the SCS may be a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere. Additional analyses indicated that diurnal variations of surface seawater pCO2 in the shallow water reef flat are controlled mainly by biological metabolic processes, while those of deeper water lagoons and outer reef areas are regulated by both biological metabolism and hydrodynamic factors. Unlike the open ocean, inorganic metabolism plays a significant role in influencing seawater pCO2 variations in coral reef ecosystems.


coral reefs pCO2 carbon cycle summer South China Sea 


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© The Author(s) 2011

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • HongQiang Yan
    • 1
    • 2
  • KeFu Yu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Qi Shi
    • 1
    • 2
  • YeHui Tan
    • 1
    • 2
  • HuiLing Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • MeiXia Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shu Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • TianRan Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • LingYing Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  • PinXian Wang
    • 3
  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Marginal Sea GeologyGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.South China Sea Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Marine GeologyTongji UniversityShanghaiChina

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