Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 9, issue 12
Biogeosciences, 9, 5231–5241, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-9-5231-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 9, 5231–5241, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-9-5231-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 18 Dec 2012

Research article | 18 Dec 2012

Oxygen isotope ratios in the shell of Mytilus edulis: archives of glacier meltwater in Greenland?

E. A. A. Versteegh1, M. E. Blicher2, J. Mortensen2, S. Rysgaard2,3,4, T. D. Als5, and A. D. Wanamaker Jr.6 E. A. A. Versteegh et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 2Greenland Climate Research Centre, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk, Greenland
  • 3Centre for Earth Observation Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • 4Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University, Århus C, Denmark
  • 5National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Silkeborg, Denmark
  • 6Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University, Ames IA, USA

Abstract. Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is accelerating and will contribute significantly to global sea level rise during the 21st century. Instrumental data on GrIS melting only cover the last few decades, and proxy data extending our knowledge into the past are vital for validating models predicting the influence of ongoing climate change. We investigated a potential meltwater proxy in Godthåbsfjord (West Greenland), where glacier meltwater causes seasonal excursions with lower oxygen isotope water (δ18Ow) values and salinity. The blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) potentially records these variations, because it precipitates its shell calcite in oxygen isotopic equilibrium with ambient seawater. As M. edulis shells are known to occur in raised shorelines and archaeological shell middens from previous Holocene warm periods, this species may be ideal in reconstructing past meltwater dynamics. We investigate its potential as a palaeo-meltwater proxy. First, we confirmed that M. edulis shell calcite oxygen isotope (δ18Oc) values are in equilibrium with ambient water and generally reflect meltwater conditions. Subsequently we investigated if this species recorded the full range of δ18Ow values occurring during the years 2007 to 2010. Results show that δ18Ow values were not recorded at very low salinities (< ~ 19), because the mussels appear to cease growing. This implies that Mytilus edulis δ18Oc values are suitable in reconstructing past meltwater amounts in most cases, but care has to be taken that shells are collected not too close to a glacier, but rather in the mid-region or mouth of the fjord. The focus of future research will expand on the geographical and temporal range of the shell measurements by sampling mussels in other fjords in Greenland along a south–north gradient, and by sampling shells from raised shorelines and archaeological shell middens from prehistoric settlements in Greenland.

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