Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 1050–1068 | Cite as

Temporal Changes in Seawater Carbonate Chemistry and Carbon Export from a Southern California Estuary

  • May-Linn PaulsenEmail author
  • Andreas J. Andersson
  • Lihini Aluwihare
  • Tyler Cyronak
  • Sydney D’Angelo
  • Charlie Davidson
  • Hany Elwany
  • Sarah N. Giddings
  • Heather N. Page
  • Magali Porrachia
  • Stephen Schroeter


Estuaries are important subcomponents of the coastal ocean, but knowledge about the temporal and spatial variability of their carbonate chemistry, as well as their contribution to coastal and global carbon fluxes, are limited. In the present study, we measured the temporal and spatial variability of biogeochemical parameters in a saltmarsh estuary in Southern California, the San Dieguito Lagoon (SDL). We also estimated the flux of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total organic carbon (TOC) to the adjacent coastal ocean over diel and seasonal timescales. The combined net flux of DIC and TOC (FDIC + TOC) to the ocean during outgoing tides ranged from − 1.8±0.5 × 103 to 9.5±0.7 × 103 mol C h−1 during baseline conditions. Based on these fluxes, a rough estimate of the net annual export of DIC and TOC totaled 10±4 × 106 mol C year−1. Following a major rain event (36 mm rain in 3 days), FDIC + TOC increased and reached values as high as 29.0 ± 0.7 × 103 mol C h−1. Assuming a hypothetical scenario of three similar storm events in a year, our annual net flux estimate more than doubled to 25 ± 4 × 106 mol C year−1. These findings highlight the importance of assessing coastal carbon fluxes on different timescales and incorporating event scale variations in these assessments. Furthermore, for most of the observations elevated levels of total alkalinity (TA) and pH were observed at the estuary mouth relative to the coastal ocean. This suggests that SDL partly buffers against acidification of adjacent coastal surface waters, although the spatial extent of this buffering is likely small.


Carbon export Carbon fluxes Estuary Total alkalinity Storm 



The authors would like to acknowledge support from NSF (OCE 12-55042; AJA) and Norsk Vannforening (Norwegian Water Association; MLP) and everyone that helped with sample collection including Alyssa Finlay, Angel Ruacho, Camille Grimaldi, Evan Betzler, Madeleine Harvey, Margot White, and Michael Fong. The authors would like to thank Sara Rivera and Brandon Stephens for help with TOC sample analysis. The authors would also like to acknowledge the San Dieguito Joint River Park Authorities, Park Rangers and the San Diego Coast Keepers for allowing this study to be done. Finally, we would like to thank Kyle Mandla, Madeleine Harvey, Theo Kindeberg and Travis Courtney for helpful feedback on the manuscript. Comments by two anonymous reviewers also significantly improved an earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

12237_2017_345_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.6 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 3705 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • May-Linn Paulsen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andreas J. Andersson
    • 1
  • Lihini Aluwihare
    • 1
  • Tyler Cyronak
    • 1
  • Sydney D’Angelo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Charlie Davidson
    • 1
    • 3
  • Hany Elwany
    • 4
  • Sarah N. Giddings
    • 1
  • Heather N. Page
    • 1
  • Magali Porrachia
    • 1
  • Stephen Schroeter
    • 5
  1. 1.Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Midwestern UniversityGlendaleUSA
  3. 3.Kinnetic Laboratories IncorporatedCarlsbadUSA
  4. 4.Coastal EnvironmentsLa JollaUSA
  5. 5.University of California Santa Barbara Marine Science InstituteSanta BarbaraUSA

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