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Document Type

Book Chapter


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Franz J. Mueter, Danielle M.S. Dickson, Henry P. Huntington, James R. Irvine, Elizabeth A. Logerwell, Stephen A. MacLean, Lori T. Quakenbush, and Cheryl Rosa

Publication Date


Book Title

Responses of Arctic Marine Ecosystems to Climate Change


Alaska Sea Grant




Bivalve mollusks store a complete history of their life in the growth lines in their valves. Through sclerochronology, in combination with isotope signatures, it is possible to reconstruct both post-recruitment growth history at the individual level and commensurate environmental records of temperature and salinity. Growth patterns are integrators of local primary productivity; spatial and temporal changes in growth illustrate commensurate patterns of food availability. Mactrid clams are long-lived, benthic dominant species found on inner continental shelves throughout the Northern Hemisphere where they variously support major fisheries (Spisula solidissima in the Mid-Atlantic Bight, Mactromeris polynyma in eastern Canada, Spisula sachalinensis in Japan) and recreational fisheries (Mactromeris polynyma in Alaska), and serve as dietary items for charismatic species such as bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) and walrus Odobenus rosmarus divergens). Ongoing studies, employing sophisticated adult growth and larval dispersal models of the response of Spisula solidissima to climate change in the Mid-Atlantic Bight, suggest the general use of mactrids as barometers of climate change over broader geographic footprints. Mactromeris polynyma is a candidate species for shallow arctic marine systems, having a pan-arctic distribution from the Gulf of Maine in the Atlantic to the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska in the northern Pacific. The longevity of extant individuals (≤25 years) provides opportunity for detailed reconstruction of the benthic environment and food regimes at the decadal level.




Arctic marine ecosystems; climate change

Bivalve Molluscs: Barometers of Climate Change in Arctic Marine Systems