Arctic Glacier Watersheds

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Funded Title: 
Integrating Studies of Glacier Dynamics and Estuarine Chemistry in the context of Landscape Change in the Arctic
Feb 2013

The Jago, Okpilak, and Hulahula rivers in the Arctic are heavily glaciated watersheds that are important for fish and wildlife, subsistence, recreation, and, potentially, resource extraction on the coastal plain. If current glacial loss trends continue, most of the ice in these rivers will disappear in the next 50-100 years. It is important to understand the response of these rivers to climate change and the role of shrinking glaciers in the future dynamics of these rivers and the estuarine environments they influence. The overarching goal of this project is to research 1) the amount of river water, sediment, nutrients, organic matter, and so forth in the Jago, Okpilak, and Hulahula rivers that come from glacier melt, 2) the effect that glacier inputs have on terrestrial, aquatic, and coastal ecosystems, and 3) the changes in river processes as glaciers disappear. This project will bring a better understanding about how inputs from glacier-dominated arctic rivers differ from un-glaciated rivers and will, in turn, improve the ability of resource managers to plan for potential changes in downstream ecosystem responses that may be different from region to region along the Arctic Ocean coast.