A combination of field and theoretical work is used to study controls on the saturation state of aragonite inside a coral-reef framework. A closed-system ion-speciation model is used to evaluate the effect of organic-matter oxidation on the saturation state of aragonite. The aragonite saturation state initially drops below 1 but becomes oversaturated during sulfate reduction. The C:N ratio of the organic matter affects the degree of oversaturation, with N-poor organic material resulting in a system more corrosive to aragonite. Precipitation of sulfide as FeS strongly affects the aragonite saturation state, and systems with much FeS formation will have a stronger tendency to become oversaturated with respect to aragonite. Both precipitation and dissolution of aragonite are predicted at different stages of the organic reaction pathway if the model system is maintained at aragonite saturation. Field data from a coral-reef framework indicate that the system maintains itself at aragonite saturation, and model-predicted changes in dissolved calcium follow those observed in the interstitial waters of the reef. Aragonite probably acts as a solid-phase buffer in regulating the pH of interstitial waters. Because interstitial water in the reef has a short residence time, the observed equilibration suggests rapid kinetics.

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