Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014AK120B

Gone fishin’: Reconstructing temperature and productivity in Arctic lake ecosystems using lake trout (proposal to USGS NIWR)

Institute: Alaska
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $18,450 Total Non-Federal Funds: $9,225

Principal Investigators: Christopher Arp

Abstract: Understanding climate change and how ecosystems and organisms are responding to climate change are first order interests for adaptive management in the Arctic. This proposed study and the student it will support would seek to understand both climate change and ecosystem responses by using the information recorded in lake trout otoliths (ear bones) to reconstruct and forecast lake temperature and productivity regimes over long time periods. Long-term air temperature records only exist in a few locations in Arctic Alaska, shorter records (past decade) provide more spatially comprehensive coverage, and lake temperature records are only beginning to be monitored across the landscape. Therefore, finding reliable proxy indicators of lake temperature are necessary. Because lake trout are found in many deep lakes and are relatively long-lived (50 years or greater), biochronologic analysis of otolith growth increments provide a reliable index of summer water temperature and productivity. Extending these indicators more broadly to air temperature has great potential because lakes closely track meteorological variability. Thus, this study will aid in understanding both changes in climate and how aquatic ecosystems and organisms are responding to climate change and in turn, will allow for the projection of changes to these aquatic ecosystems over the next century. This project will identify sets of lakes with varying degrees of hydrologic connectivity and past land-use to look at how well climate and corresponding aquatic productivity are recorded in otolith data. The feasibility and relevance of this project will be greatly strengthened by existing lake monitoring programs supported by the National Science Foundation, climate monitoring programs conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, and a new study supported by the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative that includes climate and aquatic modeling components. This project will focus on the Fish Creek Watershed, a proposed Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (TEON) site, in the northeast National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska. The impacts of climate change on the terrestrial landscape in this region are well documented and changes in land-use are occurring in relation to oil and gas development. This study will fill a critical data gap with respect to the response of aquatic ecosystems to climate and land use change. Training a student in this context will provide an opportunity to learn the science and techniques from multiple disciplines with mentoring from both academic and agency scientists. Agencies scientists that will work directly with the this student on this proposed research include Chris Zimmerman and Ben Jones (USGS), Matthew Whitman (BLM), and Jeff Adams (USFWS); all of whom are listed as project PIs and a companion proposal to the Climate Science Center.