Testing for sediment acidification effects on within-season variability in juvenile soft-shell clam (Mya arenaria) abundance on the northern shore of the Bay of Fundy

Soft-shell clams (Mya arenaria) can serve important ecological roles in intertidal mudflats and are an important economic and recreational resource in the northwestern Atlantic. However, environmental factors affecting newly-settled and juvenile clam abundances within a given settlement season remain uncertain. We conducted a field study assessing relationships between juvenile soft-shell clam abundance and spatial, temporal, and environmental variables in coastal mudflats of the northern shore of the Bay of Fundy. Sediment pH and low-tide water temperature (tide pools) were monitored in situ on a biweekly–monthly basis over the course of the M. arenaria settlement season in 2012 at four study sites to quantify diel variation in sediment pH and temperature. Core samples were also collected to quantify M. arenaria (<6 mm) abundance. Sea-surface and air temperature, and in situ sediment pH and water temperature were then used to predict clam abundance. Sediment pH was spatially and temporally variable, while in situ temperature was stable and declined over the sampling season. Akaike’s information criterion model selection indicated that models incorporating site, date, and air temperature best predicted 2012 recruitment patterns in linear models when all variables were included. When only environmental variables were included, the best linear model included minimum air temperature and sediment pH. When data were averaged across dates for each site to remove potential temporal effects, mean clam abundance displayed a significant positive relationship with sediment pH and sediment grain size, but not minimum air temperature. The results of this study suggest that sediment pH and/or sediment grain size may influence within-season juvenile soft-shell clam abundances across mudflats in the Bay of Fundy. Field experiments at the same (or similar) sites are now needed to confirm the mechanism driving the observed relationships.

Clements J. C. & Hunt H. L., 2018. Testing for sediment acidification effects on within-season variability in juvenile soft-shell clam (Mya arenaria) abundance on the northern shore of the Bay of Fundy. Estuaries and Coasts 41 (2): 471-483. Article (subscription required).

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