A simple method for air/sea gas exchange measurement in mesocosms and its application in carbon budgeting

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Czerny, J, Schulz, KG, Ludwig, A & Riebesell, U 2012, 'A simple method for air/sea gas exchange measurement in mesocosms and its application in carbon budgeting', Biogeosciences, vol. 9, pp. 11989-12017.

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Mesocosms as large experimental vessels principally provide the opportunity of performing elemental budget calculations e.g. to derive net biological turnover rates. However, the system is in most cases not closed at the water surface and gases can exchange with the atmosphere. Previous attempts to budget carbon pools in mesocosms relied on educated guesses concerning the exchange of CO2 with the atmosphere. Nevertheless, net primary production rates derived from these budget calculations were, despite large uncertainties in air/sea gas exchange, often more reasonable than cumulative extrapolations of bioassays. While bioassays have limitations representing the full spectrum of trophic levels and abiotic conditions inside the mesocosms, calculating dissolved inorganic carbon uptake inside the mesocosms has the potential to deliver net community production rates representative of the enclosed system. Here, we present a simple method for precise determination of air/sea gas exchange velocities in mesocosms using N2O as a deliberate tracer. Beside the application for carbon budgeting, exchange velocities can be used to calculate exchange rates of any gas of known concentration, e.g. to calculate aquatic production rates of climate relevant trace gases. Using an arctic (Kiel Off Shore Mesocosms for future Ocean Simulation) mesocosm experiment as an exemplary dataset, it is shown that application of the presented method largely improves accuracy of carbon budget estimates. Methodology of manipulation, measurement, data processing and conversion to CO2 fluxes are explained. A theoretical discussion of prerequisites for precise gas exchange measurements provides a guideline for the applicability of the method under various experimental conditions.