Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Volcanology Editors' Highlights

Tracking Excess Nitrogen with Freshwater Mussels

Mussel shell periostracum and carbonate bound organic matter document seasonal variability in the isotopic composition of riverine suspended particulate organic matter.

Source: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems


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Documenting past riverine nutrient conditions, which in turn may reflect excess nitrogen from farms or cities, is difficult because of the limited water chemistry monitoring. Kukolich and Dettman [2021] find that the isotopic composition of shell organic matter in three species of freshwater mussel recorded seasonal variability in chemistry of riverine suspended particulate organic matter. Chronologies developed using oxygen isotopes support a dormant winter season, indicating that most of the shell growth occurs during the warm summer months. This technique can be applied to archived specimens to evaluate past change in riverine water quality.

Citation: Kukolich, S., & Dettman, D. [2021]. Reconstructing seasonal and baseline nitrogen isotope ratios in riverine particulate matter using freshwater mussel shells. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 22, e2020GC009239. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GC009239

—Branwen Williams, Editor, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

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