Can shells of freshwater mussels (Unionidae) be used to estimate low summer discharge of rivers and associated droughts?
Versteegh, E. A. A., Vonhof, H. B., Troelstra, S. R. and Kroon, D. (2011) Can shells of freshwater mussels (Unionidae) be used to estimate low summer discharge of rivers and associated droughts? International Journal of Earth Sciences, 100 (6). pp. 1423-1432. ISSN 1437-3262
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s00531-010-0551-0
This paper examines if shell oxygen isotope ratios (d18Oar) of Unio sp. can be used as a proxy of past discharge of the river Meuse. The proxy was developed from a modern dataset for the reference time interval 1997–2007, which showed a logarithmic relationship between discharge and measured water oxygen isotope ratios(d18Ow). To test this relationship for past time intervals,d18Oar values were measured in the aragonite of the growth increments of four Unio sp. shells; two from a relatively wet period and two from a very dry time interval (1910–1918 and 1969–1977, respectively). Shell d18Oar records were converted into d18Ow values using existing water temperature records. Summer d18Ow values, reconstructed from d18Oar of 1910–1918, showed a similar range as the summer d18Ow values for the reference time interval 1997–2007, whilst summer reconstructed d18Ow values for the time interval 1969–1977 were anomalously high. These high d18Ow values suggest that the river Meuse experienced severe summer droughts during the latter time interval. d18Ow values were then applied to calculate discharge values. It was attempted to estimate discharge from the reconstructed d18Ow values using the logarithmic relationship between d18Ow and discharge. A comparison of the calculated summer discharge results with observed discharge data showed that Meuse low-discharge events below a threshold value of 6 m3/s can be detected in the reconstructed d18Ow records, but true quantification remains problematic.