A Molluscan-Based Ecosystem Health Metric

Humans interact with and influence the habitats around us on a daily basis. This is particularly true in coastal marine ecosystems, where people have fished, polluted, and altered the habitat for centuries, if not millennia. Recent legislation in Europe has called for an assessment of these coastal habitats and led to the proliferation of metrics and indices to determine the ecosystems’ health. In many cases, however, the data that are being used as reference conditions, or “natural” and “pristine” baselines, have often been anthropogenically influenced. We show that two commonly applied ecosystem health metrics (AMBI and Bentix) can be reliably calculated using just mollusks (snails and clams). This work is important because molluscan remains (i.e., seashells) can remain in the sediments, where the organism lived, for centuries. Using these accumulated remains and applying the molluscan-based versions of AMBI and Bentix, we can extend comparisons of ecosystem health back in time. To learn more, you can read the full publication at http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2016.00169.