Phosphate has a major role in biology and the biosphere. In its "abiotic" form, floating around in the oceans, lets say marine oceans to be specific, does it tend to be in the Na3PO4 form? If for example a cell floating around in the oceans were to absorb a phosphate from the oceans, would it be the acidic phase (bonded with hydrogen ions, like H3PO4) or, a sodium-phosphate (the completely disassociated anion phase seems unlikely.. )

  • $\begingroup$ in the old days seaweed was used as fertilizer by farmers to add nutrients incuding phosphorus to the soil. $\endgroup$ – trond hansen Jun 28 at 10:33

The pH of ocean water is currently about 8.1, which lies between the second and third dissociation constants (7.20 and 12.37, respectively). So most of the phosphate inthe ocean in its twice-dissociared form, as $\text {HPO}_4^{2-}$. For comparison, our own blood is around pH 7.4, so phosphate in our blood would be a mixture of $\text {HPO}_4^{2-}$ and $\text {H}_2\text{PO}_4^-$.

In the EPA reference above, it is noted that the slightly lower pH today versus in the relatively past implies a larger increase in hydrogen ion concentration. But it's worse than that. Because of the way changing pH is coupled with changing dissociation of acids including phosphoric acid, a seemingly small change in pH could mean a lot more potentially acidic material (in the case of phosphate, $\text {H}_2\text{PO}_4^-$ versus $\text {HPO}_4^{2-}$) in the oceans.

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