Articles | Volume 8, issue 9
Biogeosciences, 8, 2567–2579, 2011
Biogeosciences, 8, 2567–2579, 2011

Research article 13 Sep 2011

Research article | 13 Sep 2011

Exploring B/Ca as a pH proxy in bivalves: relationships between Mytilus californianus B/Ca and environmental data from the northeast Pacific

S. J. McCoy1, L. F. Robinson2,3, C. A. Pfister1, J. T. Wootton1, and N. Shimizu2 S. J. McCoy et al.
  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
  • 2Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK

Abstract. A distinct gap in our ability to understand changes in coastal biology that may be associated with recent ocean acidification is the paucity of directly measured ocean environmental parameters at coastal sites in recent decades. Thus, many researchers have turned to sclerochronological reconstructions of water chemistry to document the historical seawater environment. In this study, we explore the relationships between B/Ca and pH to test the feasibility of B/Ca measured on the ion probe as a pH proxy in the California mussel, Mytilus californianus. Heterogeneity in a range of ion microprobe standards is assessed, leading to reproducible B/Ca ratios at the 5% level. The B/Ca data exhibit large excursions during winter months, which are particularly pronounced during the severe winters of 2004–2005 and 2005–2006. Furthermore, B/Ca ratios are offset in different parts of the skeleton that calcified at the same time. We compare the M. californianus B/Ca record to directly measured environmental data during mussel growth from the period of 1999–2009 to examine whether seawater chemistry or temperature plays a role in controlling shell B/Ca. A suite of growth rate models based on measured temperature are compared to the B/Ca data to optimise the potential fit of B/Ca to pH. Despite sampling conditions that were well-suited to testing a pH control on B/Ca, including a close proximity to an environmental record, a distinct change in pH at the sampling locale, and a growth model designed to optimise the correlations between seawater pH and shell B/Ca, we do not see a strong correlations between pH and shell B/Ca (maximum coefficient of determination, r2, of 0.207). Instead, our data indicate a strong biological control on B/Ca as observed in some other carbonate-forming organisms.

Final-revised paper