ArcticNet - ArcticNet Research

Phase 4 (2015-2018)

Coupled Terrestrial-Aquatic Climate Impacts on High Arctic Watersheds: Using the Lake Hazen Watershed as a Sentinel for Change

Project Leader(s)

St. Louis, Vincent

A whole-ecosystem study is being conducted to quantify coupled terrestrial-aquatic impacts of climate change on high Arctic watersheds, using the Lake Hazen watershed in Quttinirpaaq National Park on northern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, as a sentinel system. To accomplish this goal, the following are being quantified: 1) net exchange of energy, H2O, CO2 and CH4 between the atmosphere and terrestrial landscapes in the watershed; 2) net mass change of glaciers in the watershed; 3) chemical inputs to Lake Hazen from snowmelt, glacier melt and soil/permafrost thaw; 4) the metabolism of Lake Hazen itself; and 5) long-term biological and biogeochemical changes in Lake Hazen and its watershed using sediment cores. Emphasis is being placed on understanding: 1) sources, quality and age of the organic carbon (OC) and nutrients entering Lake Hazen; 2) 'hot spots' where major biogeochemical processes altering OC and nutrients occur; and 3) the rates at which these biogeochemical processes are evolving. Identification of sources, and quantification of inputs, of legacy contaminants (e.g., mercury, persistent organic pollutants) is being undertaken through a partnership with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and their Northern Contaminants Program. From an applied and socio-economic perspective, increasing our ability to predict impacts of warming northern ecosystems on watershed productivity and water quality is vital for securing food, clean drinking water and traditional lifestyles for Northern peoples. Contributes to IRIS: 2