Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Massachusetts
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Bowen, L., K. Counihan, B. Ballachey, H. Coletti, T. Hollmen, B. Pister, T.L. Wilson. 2020. Monitoring nearshore ecosystem health using Pacific razor clams (Siliqua patula) as an indicator species. Peerj: e8761.


An emerging approach to ecosystem monitoring involves the use of physiological biomarker analyses in combination with gene transcription assays. For the first time, we employed these tools to evaluate the Pacific razor clam (Siliqua patula), which is important both economically and ecologically, as a bioindicator species in the northeast Pacific. Our objectives were to (1) develop biomarker and gene transcription assays with which to monitor the health of the Pacific razor clam, (2) acquire baseline biomarker and gene transcription reference ranges for razor clams, (3) assess the relationship between physiological and gene transcription assays and (4) determine if site-level differences were present. Pacific razor clams were collected in July 2015 and 2016 at three sites within each of two national parks in southcentral Alaska. In addition to determining reference ranges, we found differences in biomarker assay and gene transcription results between parks and sites which indicate variation in both large-scale and local environmental conditions. Our intent is to employ these methods to evaluate Pacific razor clams as a bioindicator of nearshore ecosystem health. Links between the results of the biomarker and gene transcription assays were observed that support the applicability of both assays in ecosystem monitoring. However, we recognize the need for controlled studies to examine the range of responses in physiology and gene transcripts to different stressors.