Improving data resolution and statistical rigor in the analysis of bivalve shells as environmental archives
Bivalves secrete their shells in an annual fashion, resulting in discrete bands of growth within each shell. In doing so, they may incorporate trace elements in concentrations reflecting exposure. This may make it possible to use them as archives of environmental information, such as contamination events. In this study, we used laser ablation inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry to analyze trace elements (Cd, Cu, Mn, Pb and Zn) on a fly-scanning transect perpendicular to the growth annuli of the freshwater bivalve Elliptio hopetonensis collected from the Altamaha river system. Concentrations of Mn from multiple shells at each site were correlated and average Mn data series were formed. Periodicity of Mn data was determined and sampling errors removed using an autoregression model. The Mn data series at each site were shown to have regular fluctuations of high and low concentrations. Fluctuations were similar between the shells from the same site but different between shells from different sites, demonstrating that Mn deposition in the shells of E. hopetonensis follows a regular, seasonal pattern but that growth differs between sites with different environments. Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn could not be analyzed in a statistically robust manner. This is the first study to attempt to improve data resolution by using the fly-scanning approach and, additionally, the first to apply an autoregression model to Mn data from bivalve annuli. Further study is required to develop this approach for environmental monitoring.