Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020MT038B

Vanishing Glaciers & Emergent Lakes: physical and chemical constraints on aquatic ecosystem metabolism

Institute: Montana
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $30,000

Principal Investigators: Ashley Ballantyne

Abstract: Alpine glacial loss is resulting in the rapid change and even emergence of downstream lakes; however, little is known about the processes regulating development in these new ecosystems. The unique properties of glacial meltwater impose physical and chemical constraints on lake ecosystem processes, but the degree to which these constraints interact or relax as glaciers recede is not well understood. The nature of these constraints have direct consequences for the fundamental ecological characteristics of the ecosystem. For example, glacial inputs rich in sediment may reduce light thereby limiting primary production, whereas glacial inputs rich nutrients may promote primary production. Understanding the relative importance of glacial inputs to the metabolism of emerging aquatic ecosystems may help preserve them and build a framework to predict their trajectory of ecosystem development and future ecological state. In addition, aquatic systems will likely shift from net autotrophic carbon sinks to net heterotrophic carbon sources as glaciers disappear and vegetation colonizes alpine catchments.