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Reconstruction of Environmental Histories Using Long-Lived Bivalve Shells in the Norwegian Arctic (RELIC)

Awarded: NOK 1.1 mill.

Analysis of accreted calcium carbonate parts of marine animals has proven useful as a tool in reconstruction of marine environmental histories. In particular, the shells of long-lived bivalve molluscs have provided insight into recent and prehistoric clim atic conditions of tropical and temperate oceans. However, these techniques have seldom been applied in Arctic areas. We propose to develop the use of the long-lived Arctic bivalve Arctica islandica as an archive of ecological and environmental conditions in the Norwegian Arctic. Using a cross-disciplinary team of ecologists, geochemists, and paleooceanographers from Norway and the USA, we will use the shell banding pattern to construct multi-centennial bivalve-based growth chronologies from modern and su b-fossil samples of this species at their northern geographical limit in northern Finnmark County, and examine shell geochemical signatures as direct proxies of past environmental conditions. These results will be compared with instrumental records (tempe rature, salinity, meteorological) in order to develop a function of growth response to environmental changes, which will then be used to reconstruct prehistoric environmental and hydrographical conditions during rapid climatic changes during the past mill ennium (Little Ice Age, Medieval Climate Anomaly). The joint activities under this Norwegian-USA cooperation program is directly linked to research funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. It will lead to enhanced cooperation through technical cros s-fertilization, development of methods not currently available in Norway, the training of students in the field and laboratory, and ultimately serve as the basis for both a better stronger cooperative research links between Norwegian and American researc h in this discipline.

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