Publication: Research - peer-review › Journal article – Annual report year: 2008
The coastal ocean constitutes the crucial link between land, the open ocean and the atmosphere. Furthermore, its shallow water column permits close interactions between the sedimentary and atmospheric compartments, which otherwise are decoupled at short time scales (2 and transferring it into the deep oceans via the continental shelf pump, the underlying mechanisms remain only partly understood. Evaluating observations from the North Sea, a NW European shelf sea, we provide evidence that anaerobic degradation of organic matter, fuelled from land and ocean, generates alkalinity (AT) and increases the CO2 buffer capacity of seawater. At both the basin wide and annual scales anaerobic AT generation in the North Sea's tidal mud flat area irreversibly facilitates 7–10%, or taking into consideration benthic denitrification in the North Sea, 20–25% of the North Sea's overall CO2 uptake. At the global scale, anaerobic AT generation could be accountable for as much as 60% of the uptake of CO2 in shelf and marginal seas, making this process, the anaerobic pump, a key player in the biological carbon pump. Under future high CO2 conditions oceanic CO2 storage via the anaerobic pump may even gain further relevance because of stimulated ocean productivity.