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Sclerochronological records of environmental variability and bivalve growth in the Pacific Arctic

August 2, 2022

The Pacific Arctic region has experienced, and is projected to continue experiencing, rapid climate change. Large uncertainties exist in our understanding of the impact these physical changes have on the region’s ecology. This is, in part, due to the lack of long-term data. Here we investigate bivalve mollusc growth increment width chronologies (sclerochronologies) to develop a long-term biological data series in an Arctic species and address the hypothesis that benthic production in the Pacific Arctic region is in decline with implications for predators (e.g., walrus, whales, seals, and sea ducks). Growth increments formed in the shells of two bivalve mollusc species, Astarte borealis and Liocyma fluctuosa, were examined using conventional sclerochronological techniques. The A. borealis and L. fluctuosa samples exhibited measured longevities of >148 and >18 years, respectively, in the coastal waters of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. Dendrochronology crossdating techniques facilitated the development of two robust (expressed population signal >0.85) independent growth increment width chronologies. These chronologies provide evidence of the growth conditions through time for each species (1985-2015 for A. borealis and 1997-2014 for L. fluctuosa). Linear regression analyses identified that both species grew more rapidly in years with warmer sea surface temperature and lower sea ice concentration. The results provide evidence that benthic ecosystems are benefiting from the warmer conditions and reduced sea ice that have accompanied recent Arctic climate trends. This result is encouraging for benthic predators in the eastern Chukchi Sea as it alleviates the concern that their benthic prey has already become food limited by weakened pelagic-benthic coupling. More broadly, this initial A. borealis chronology is among the longest biological data series for any Arctic species and highlights the feasibility of multicentennial biological data for the Arctic.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Sclerochronological records of environmental variability and bivalve growth in the Pacific Arctic
DOI 10.1016/j.pocean.2022.102864
Authors David J. Reynolds, Vanessa R. von Biela, Kenneth H. Dunton, David C. Douglas, Bryan A. Black
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Progress in Oceanography
Series Number
Index ID 70234212
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Water