CORDIS - EU research results

UNravelling BIvAlve Shell chemistry: Advanced Techniques for Accurate Reconstructions of Sub-annual Climate

Project description

Reading the (bivalve) book of climate change with greater accuracy

Bivalves are a huge class of molluscs containing more than 15 000 species of clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other marine and freshwater organisms of critical importance to ecosystems. In addition, they are excellent record keepers when it comes to changes in environmental conditions. Multiple indicators within their two hinged shells, like a small and delicate book, tell a story of climate change with unprecedented temporal resolution. However, we need better ways to decode what these indicators are saying. The EU-funded UNBIAS project is developing more accurate tools to disentangle all the information present in bivalve shells and reconstruct climate parameters from it.


An important part of climate variability takes place at the sub-annual to decadal scale. However, climate reconstructions mostly focus on long-term trends (thousands to millions of years), while data of past, fast and short-term changes is limited. To calibrate climate models and extend our knowledge of the causes and effects of rapid climate change, archives recording higher resolution climate change are needed. Contrary to sedimentary records, bivalve shells record environmental conditions at a resolution of days to months. Conventional climate proxies in bivalve shells (stable isotopes and trace elements) depend on multiple physiological and environmental parameters, complicating the reconstruction of individual climate parameters. UNBIAS aims to develop new, more accurate tools for absolute reconstructions of climate parameters on a sub-annual scale from bivalve shells. Parameters influencing climate proxies will be disentangled by combining state-of-the-art trace element and microstructure analyses with the new powerful carbonate clumped isotope method, which reconstructs absolute temperature. These techniques are applied directly on cross sections through shells of Arctica islandica, Ostrea edulis and Cerastoderma edule. First, more accurate climate proxies will be developed by applying this interdisciplinary approach on bivalves grown in monitored North Sea environments. After development, these new proxies will first be applied to reconstruct sub-annual climate and environmental change over the past 500 years, recording human impact on North Sea environments. Finally, fossil bivalve shell records from the warm Miocene epoch highlight the effect of global warming on short-term climate variability. UNBIAS provides me with interdisciplinary skills and expertise from specialized institutes in the Benelux and Germany. It will offer me unique chances to gain experience in teaching, professional network and outreach, thus greatly enhancing my career opportunies.


Net EU contribution
€ 175 572,48
3584 CS Utrecht

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West-Nederland Utrecht Utrecht
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 175 572,48