These shells don't clam up: Innovative technique to record human impact on coastal waters

Dec 02, 2008
Mercenaria mercenaria Have Tales to Tell
Stable isotope techniques used on Mercenaria mercenaria have yielded valuable information on wastewater inputs in coastal waters. Credit: Dr. Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab

With their sedentary lifestyles and filter-feeding habits, clams have been silent witnesses to the changes that humans have inflicted upon their waters. These clams are silent no more, as Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and her colleagues have reported in their recent paper in Aquatic Biology.

Using stable isotope techniques, Carmichael demonstrated it is possible to identify and trace wastewater inputs to estuaries and coastal food webs by studying the organic matrix in the shell of the hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria.

This work presents a novel application of established biochemical techniques that can be applied to refine diet analyses for shellfish, trace nitrogen entry to coastal waters relative to changes in urbanization or climate, and help discern natural from human-driven influences on coastal ecosystems.

Using this new technique will allow coastal researchers and managers to document increases in waste loadings to coastal waters over longer periods of environmental change.

"This technique is exciting because it gives scientists and coastal managers a way to look into the past and trace human influences, in this case wastewater pollution, into local waters and ultimately into the organisms living there," said Dr. Carmichael. "Tools that help us define and trace specific sources of human-influence on our coastal waters are essential to inform management and future research efforts."

Source: Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Explore further: China bans ivory carving imports for one year

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Reaching across the sea for the sake of water

Jan 09, 2015

The Arava desert, a salty wasteland dotted with tufts of scrub, gets only about an inch of rain each year. And yet cows lazily low at dairy farms that collectively produce nearly 8 million gallons of milk annually. Orange ...

Small drains mean big problems at 'baby beaches'

Dec 03, 2014

High fecal counts frequently detected at so-called "baby beaches" may not be diaper-related. UC Irvine researchers found that during summer months, small drainpipes emptying into enclosed ocean bays have a disproportionate ...

Recommended for you

China bans ivory carving imports for one year

55 minutes ago

Beijing has imposed a one-year ban on the import of ivory carvings, amid international criticism that rapidly-growing Chinese demand could push wild African elephants to extinction within a generation.

Living in the genetic comfort zone

9 hours ago

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external ...

Cats put sight over smell in finding food

11 hours ago

Cats may prefer to use their eyes rather than follow their nose when it comes to finding the location of food, according to new research by leading animal behaviourists.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.