Sunday, March 16, 2014

Clam Garden Researcher Publishes Paper!

Terrific news from our friend on the water, biologist Amy Groesbeck! We met her studying clam gardens on Quadra Island. Quoted here from her Facebook announcement:

Do you want to know what the heck I've been working on the last 3 years??
Our Paper Came out in PLOS ONE Today! Congratulations to my mentors and co-authors Dana, Kirsten Rowell, Anne! and thank you to everyone who helped make this project possible (there are so many!)
The paper's title is: "Ancient Clam Gardens Increased Shellfish Production: Adaptive Strategies from the Past Can Inform Food Security Today." That's a great title. I love it when academic papers have titles that actually say something in plain language like "clam gardens increased shellfish production."
Here's the link to the article:

The article includes photos, maps, and diagrams. It's also pretty easy to understand for us ordinary paddlers who aren't official university-trained biologists. Go Amy!
And what the heck, because she said I could, here's the abstract, with an important sentence highlighted in green:

Maintaining food production while sustaining productive ecosystems is among the central challenges of our time, yet, it has been for millennia. Ancient clam gardens, intertidal rock-walled terraces constructed by humans during the late Holocene, are thought to have improved the growing conditions for clams. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the beach slope, intertidal height, and biomass and density of bivalves at replicate clam garden and non-walled clam beaches in British Columbia, Canada. We also quantified the variation in growth and survival rates of littleneck clams (Leukoma staminea) we experimentally transplanted across these two beach types. We found that clam gardens had significantly shallower slopes than non-walled beaches and greater densities of L. staminea and Saxidomus giganteus, particularly at smaller size classes. Overall, clam gardens contained 4 times as many butter clams and over twice as many littleneck clams relative to non-walled beaches. As predicted, this relationship varied as a function of intertidal height, whereby clam density and biomass tended to be greater in clam gardens compared to non-walled beaches at relatively higher intertidal heights. Transplanted juvenile L. staminea grew 1.7 times faster and smaller size classes were more likely to survive in clam gardens than non-walled beaches, specifically at the top and bottom of beaches. Consequently, we provide strong evidence that ancient clam gardens likely increased clam productivity by altering the slope of soft-sediment beaches, expanding optimal intertidal clam habitat, thereby enhancing growing conditions for clams. These results reveal how ancient shellfish aquaculture practices may have supported food security strategies in the past and provide insight into tools for the conservation, management, and governance of intertidal seascapes today.

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