What if pollution could be monitored by seashells?
That is the discovery researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) recently made, in a new study led by Prof. Sigal Abramovich from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and head of the Laboratory for Foraminiferal Research, in collaboration with an international network of oceanographers.
"We have accurately quantified trace amounts of heavy metal enrichment from desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast of Israel," said Prof. Abramovich.
They revealed in a new study that undetected industrial pollution from factories and desalination plants can actually be monitored by seashells in a new method based on surveilling foraminifera.
Foraminifera, unicellular organisms that produce calcite shells from seawater that store the chemical and physical properties, grow their shells by sequentially adding chambers, each of which provides a chronological sequence to monitor many factors, including pollution.
Indeed, according to the study, the researchers can now detect heavy metals at very low concentrations in the shells, even before they are considered to be pollution by using spatial-temporal monitoring.
The high diversity and presence of foraminifera in all marine habitats make them ideal candidates for monitoring of historical and ongoing pollution and its impacts, the study explained.
Prof. Abramovich added, "Our Israel field research and published studies demonstrate the potential of detecting heavy metal traces in foraminiferal shells as a tool for monitoring the coastal facilities industrial footprint. This includes areas that are considered clean marine reserves."