Multiple natural and anthropogenic processes alter the carbonate chemistry of the coastal zone in ways that either exacerbate or mitigate ocean acidification effects. Freshwater inputs and multiple acid-base reactions change carbonate chemistry conditions, sometimes synergistically. The shallow nature of these systems results in strong benthic-pelagic coupling, and marine invertebrates at different life history stages rely on both benthic and pelagic habitats. Carbonate chemistry in coastal systems can be highly variable, responding to processes with temporal modes ranging from seconds to centuries. Identifying scales of variability relevant to levels of biological organization requires a fuller characterization of both the frequency and magnitude domains of processes contributing to or reducing acidification in pelagic and benthic habitats. We review the processes that contribute to coastal acidification with attention to timescales of variability and habitats relevant to marine bivalves.