Assessing Links between Glaciers and the Northern Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem

Project Summary

Affiliation(s): Alaska CSC

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Shad R O'Neel (Alaska Science Center)
  • Anthony Arendt (Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks)
  • Eran Hood (University of Alaska Southeast)
  • Sanjay Pyare (University of Alaska Southeast)

Rates of glacier loss in the northern Pacific coastal temperate rainforest (PCTR) are among the highest on Earth. These changes in glacier volume and extent will affect the flow and chemistry of coastal rivers, as well as the nearshore marine ecosystem of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA).

Runoff from glaciers accounts for about half of the land-to-ocean movement of freshwater into the GOA, strongly influencing the freshwater and marine ecosystems along the coast. Runoff from glaciers, for example, significantly impacts the water temperature and clarity of aquatic habitats, which are important conditions for salmon reproduction. Moreover, runoff from glaciers along the GOA is an important factor in the structure of the Alaska Coastal Current, which, in turn, sustains multi-million dollar commercial fisheries, subsistence fisheries, and millions of coastal marine birds and mammals.

Through this project, scientists examined the physical, chemical and biological interconnections that characterize the northern PCTR ecosystem, with particular emphasis on the potential impacts of glacier change in the coastal mountain ranges on surface-water hydrology, biogeochemistry, coastal oceanography and aquatic ecology. Their research reveals a tightly interconnected biophysical system in the northern PCTR, with glaciers as an integral component.

Learn more about their findings from the publications and products below.

Learn more about the related project Ice2O: Assessing Icefield-to-Ocean Change in the Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest (PCTR)

Mendenhall Glacier in Tongass National Forest - Credit: William Welch, USDA

Affiliation(s): Alaska CSC

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Shad R O'Neel (Alaska Science Center)
  • Anthony Arendt (Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks)
  • Eran Hood (University of Alaska Southeast)
  • Sanjay Pyare (University of Alaska Southeast)

Start Date: June 2011

End Date: 2012

Project Status: Completed

Tags: Climate Change, Rainforest, 2012, Yukon, Yukon Territory, Y.T., Watershed, Drainage, Hydrography, Drainage System, CSC, Alaska CSC, 2012, 2011, Water and Ice, Glaciers and Permafrost, Landscapes, Forests, Sea-Level Rise and Coasts

Fiscal Year: FY 2011 Projects

Publications & Other

  • Analysis of a GRACE global mascon solution for Gulf of Alaska glaciers

      • Assessing streamflow sensitivity to variations in glacier mass balance

          • Calving seismicity from iceberg–sea surface interactions

              • Does calving matter? Evidence for significant submarine melt

                  • Final Report (Assessing the Sensitivity of Alaska’s Coastal Rainforest Ecosystem to Changes in Glacier Runoff)

                    • Listening to Glaciers: Passive hydroacoustics near marine-terminating glaciers

                          • Seasonal variability of organic matter composition in an Alaskan glacier outflow: insights into glacier carbon sources

                              • Spatial and temporal variability of freshwater discharge into the Gulf of Alaska

                                  • Spatial Variation in the Origin of Dissolved Organic Carbon in Snow on the Juneau Icefield, Southeast Alaska

                                      • Stream Physical Characteristics Impact Habitat Quality for Pacific Salmon in Two Temperate Coastal Watersheds

                                          • Stream temperature response to variable glacier coverage in coastal watersheds of Southeast Alaska

                                              • Subglacial discharge at tidewater glaciers revealed by seismic tremor

                                                    • Surface Mass Balance of the Columbia Glacier, Alaska, 1978 and 2010 Balance Years

                                                          • Surface melt dominates Alaska glacier mass balance

                                                                • Termini of calving glaciers as self-organized critical systems

                                                                    • The Randolph Glacier Inventory: a globally complete inventory of glaciers

                                                                        • Tidal and seasonal variations in calving flux observed with passive seismology

                                                                              • Using surface velocities to calculate ice thickness and bed topography: A case study at Columbia Glacier, Alaska, USA

                                                                                    • Variable penetration depth of interferometric synthetic aperture radar signals on Alaska glaciers: a cold surface layer hypothesis

                                                                                        • Watershed Glacier Coverage Influences Dissolved Organic Matter Biogeochemistry in Coastal Watersheds of Southeast Alaska

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