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Effects of environmental and physiological variables on the accumulated concentrations of trace metals in the New Zealand cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi

Author(s): Marsden ID, Smith BD, Rainbow PS


We examined potential causes of variation in trace element accumulation in an estuarine bivalve Austrovenus stutchburyi from two estuarine systems in South Island, New Zealand which differed in their metal contamination and salinity regimes. Concentrations of Ag, As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, Ti, V and Zn were measured (ICP-OES) in whole body tissues of bivalves collected from 10 sites, seston collected at high tide (a potential food resource) and in the sediment at the sites. All 13 elements showed a relationship between log bioaccumulated trace element concentration (mg kg− 1 dry weight tissue) and log shell length (mm), either in the whole data set or at least one site (ANCOVA). Growth rates of cockles varied significantly amongst sites. Accumulated soft tissue concentrations of Ag, As, Co and Cr increased with age of cockle, those of Pb and Zn decreased, with no clear age-related trend for the remaining metals (ANCOVA). Shell length was generally a good proxy for age when allowing for any size effect in metal accumulation by the cockle. There was no consistent pattern between the estuarine systems, probably reflecting unidentified contaminant inputs. Following depuration, tissue concentrations decreased significantly for some elements (Fe, Mn, Ti and V), indicating high concentrations of these metals in the gut contents. Trace element concentrations in the seston generally did not correlate with the bivalve tissue concentrations. There were few (Spearman's Rank) correlations between environmental variables at the time of sampling and cockle tissue trace element concentrations. The main sources of variation in bioaccumulated trace metal concentrations in the whole tissues of the cockle are location, shell length and age.

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