Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pollution history documented through shell remains provides tool to study ecosystem change

29.03.2004


Without destroying endangered freshwater mussels



In the early 1900s, there were 42 species of freshwater mussels in the North Fork of the Holston River in Southwest Virginia. There were 33 downstream of Saltville. Now there are only nine species of mussels downstream of Saltville, and none directly below Saltville. When Virginia Tech geosciences student Megan Brown of Colonial Heights, Va., decided to study the local extinctions of these creatures, some of which have been known to live 200 years and many of which are endangered species, she didn’t want to have to use the traditional means of pulverizing them to measure chemical uptake.

At the joint meeting of the Northeastern and Southeastern Sections of the Geological Society of America, Brown will report on her non-invasive means to determine whether pollution or environmental stresses are threatening freshwater mussels. The GSA meeting is March 25-27 in Tysons Corner, Va.


Brown measured the mercury content in freshwater mussel shells in the river near Saltville, Va., where industry had polluted the river from 1950 until 1972, measured the damage done to the shells, and observed stages of recovery.

She looked at two sites upstream, unaffected by the pollution, at a site at Saltville, the point of the contamination, and at two sites downstream. "There was a very low level of mercury in shells upstream. I had to go 30 miles downstream to find a site with mercury levels at the background levels of the upstream sites," Brown says

Dead mussel shells reflected the levels of mercury, with high levels directly below Saltville and decreasing levels with increasing distance from Saltville. Brown examined shells to see if those from areas with no living populations looked different from shells in areas with living populations. She observed such characteristics as whether shells were still hinged together, external luster, edge preservation, and how broken they were.

"Wear could have been due to a change in stream gradient, but we found the most destruction was at the site of heaviest contamination and determined the heavy destruction was because there was no input of fresh-dead material," Brown says. "And wear was present whether the shell was thin or thick."

By documenting what happened to the mussels near Saltville, Brown has developed a strategy for study of other areas. "We can look at geochemical characteristics of the shell to determine what kind of pollution has impacted a system – to determine whether the local extinction is from pollution or an environmental stress such as heavy sedimentation," explains Brown. "And we can observe the kinds of destruction, such as the kinds of damage to shells, to help determine how long ago populations were still alive."

Brown will present the paper, "Using geochemical and taphonomic signatures of freshwater mussel shells to explore industry-related extirpations in the North Fork Holston River, Va. (60-8)," at 10:40 a.m. Saturday, March 27, in the Lord Thomas Fairfax Room of the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. Co-authors are Virginia Tech geological sciences professor Michal Kowalewski, biology professor Donald Cherry, fisheries and wildlife professor Richard Neves, and geosciences professor Madeline Schreiber.

Brown, who received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Virginia, says she undertook the mussel study because "I’m interested in learning about the problems we’ve created and how we can remedy them." She expects to receive her master’s degree from Virginia Tech in May and would like to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Susan Trulove | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.technews.vt.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

Im Focus: Artificial Enzymes for Hydrogen Conversion

Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.

Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Foster tadpoles trigger parental instinct in poison frogs

20.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Drones can almost see in the dark

20.09.2017 | Information Technology

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>