Upstream dams and downstream clams: Growth rates of bivalve mollusks unveil impact of river management on estuarine ecosystems (Colorado River Delta, Mexico)

B. R. Schöne, K. W. Flessa, D. L. Dettman, D. H. Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

We studied how the extensive diversion of Colorado River water, induced by dams and agricultural activities of the last 70 years, affected the growth rates of two abundant bivalve mollusk species (Chione cortezi and Chione fluctifraga) in the northern Gulf of California. Shells alive on the delta today ('Post-dam' shells) grow 5.8-27.9% faster than shells alive prior to the construction of dams ('Pre-dam' shells). This increase in annual shell production is linked to the currently sharply reduced freshwater influx to the Colorado River estuary. Before the upstream river management, lower salinity retarded growth rates in these bivalves. Intra-annual growth rates were 50% lower during spring and early summer, when river flow was at its maximum. Growth rates in Chione today are largely controlled by temperature and nutrients; prior to the construction of dams and the diversion of the Colorado River flow, seasonal changes in salinity played an important role in regulating calcification rates. Our study employs sclerochronological (growth increment analysis) and geochemical techniques to assess the impact of reduced freshwater influx on bivalve growth rates in the Colorado River estuary. A combination of both techniques provides an excellent tool to evaluate the impact of river management in areas where no pre-impact studies were made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-726
Number of pages12
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Volume58
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2003

Keywords

  • Bivalve mollusk
  • Colorado River
  • Freshwater
  • Growth rate
  • Gulf of California
  • Oxygen isotope
  • River management
  • Sclerochronology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science

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