Application of molluscan analyses to the reconstruction of past environmental conditions in estuaries
Molluscs possess a number of attributes that make them an excellent source of past environmental conditions in estuaries: they are common in estuarine environments; they typically have hard shells and are usually well preserved in sediments; they are relatively easy to detect in the environment; they have limited mobility as adults; they grow by incremental addition of layers to their shells; and they are found in all the major environments surrounding estuaries—terrestrial, freshwater, brackish, and marine waters. Analysis of molluscan assemblages can contribute information about past changes in sea level, climate, land use patterns, anthropogenic alterations, salinity, and other parameters of the benthic habitat and water chemistry within the estuary. High-resolution (from less than a day to annual) records of changes in environmental parameters can be obtained by analyzing the incremental growth layers in mollusc shells (sclerochronology). The shell layers retain information on changes in water temperature, salinity, seasonality, climate, river discharge, productivity, pollution and human activity. Isotopic analyses of mollusc shell growth layers can be problematic in estuaries where water temperatures and isotopic ratios can vary simultaneously; however, methods are being developed to overcome these problems. In addition to sclerochronology, molluscs are important to Holocene and Pleistocene estuarine palaeoenvironmental studies because of their use in the development of age models through radiocarbon dating, amino acid racemization, uranium-thorium series dating, and electron spin resonance (ESR) dating.
|Application of molluscan analyses to the reconstruction of past environmental conditions in estuaries
|G. Lynn Wingard, Donna Surge
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center