Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 247-257

First online:

Seed Clam Growth: An Alternative Sediment Bioassay Developed During EMAP in the Carolinian Province

  • Amy H. RingwoodAffiliated withMarine Resources Research Institute
  • , Charles J. KepplerAffiliated withGrice Marine Laboratory, University of Charleston

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A new sediment bioassay was developed in conjunction with EMAP studies conducted in the Carolinian Province using juvenile seed clams, Mercenaria mercenaria. This is a sublethal assay, based on growth (total dry weight) after a 7 day incubation period. Seed clam chronic growth assays were significantly more sensitive than amphipod acute toxicity assays. Optimization components include use of hatchery-reared juvenile clams in a rapid growth phase, and size-sieving to ensure a similar size range. Juvenile clam growth was not affected by sediment type, i.e., clams grew well in muddy and sandy sediments. Clams were slightly more sensitive to ammonia than amphipods (NOEC porewater total ammonia 14 - 16 mg/L for clams). Ammonia concentrations above these levels were more common in reference sites, so most of the false positives could be explained by ammonia toxicity. This assay possesses a number of other positive attributes that are desirable for a bioassay, including the requirement for a relatively small sample size (500 ml of sediments), balanced sensitivity, low incremental costs, and high information gained. The seed clam assay is believed to be a valuable tool for EMAP as well as other monitoring efforts for estimating potential chronic toxicity.