As the planet warms, the winter season is growing shorter and warmer. The consequences of these changes are particularly problematic in alpine regions. These areas are being robbed of the time and temperature to accumulate an adequate snowpack to supply the valleys below with fresh water throughout the spring and early summer. Understanding how the snowpack has changed is critical, but snow is ephemeral, and the research community has lacked a proxy to record and reconstruct seasonal river flow.
Now a Japanese team of researchers is using the geochemical signature obtained from the shells of freshwater bivalves to find this critical piece of information. The results of their study, published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, produced an almost 7-decade seasonal record of river flow in northern Japan.
“The proxy and/or geological records that could reconstruct the river environmental condition in the past are very limited,” said Tsuyoshi Watanabe, a lecturer at Hokkaido University and first author on the study. “I was surprised that [the shells of] these long-living [mussels] could capture very detailed information about river environments [at a] daily scale.”
For more than 4 decades, geochemical records obtained from the shells of bivalves, microplankton, and corals have proven to be effective proxies to reconstruct past environmental conditions, including temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. In this study, Watanabe and his...
Read Full Story: https://eos.org/articles/freshwater-mussel-shells-may-retain-record-of-alpine-snowpack
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