Stream Communities and Ecosystems

A researcher collects water samples on an Arctic stream.
Jon collects water samples on the Agashashok River in Noatak National Preserve.

Streams and rivers are critical components and essential resources of Alaska’s Arctic parklands. Stream water is generally pristine across the network, with low nutrient, organic matter, and trace metal concentrations. Streams exist in natural free-flowing conditions, unimpacted by human impoundments and regulation. They are largely low in plant nutrients, yet abundant in oxygen in the deeper parts—oligotrophic—and provide critical habitat for large communities of resident and anadromous fish. The Arctic Network is home to seven large rivers that have been designated as part of the National Wild and Scenic River system. Local subsistence users and sportsman rely on rivers as a mode of transport and to access fish and hunting camps, and for harvesting fish. Stream and river ecosystems are sensitive to climate and landscape change, as evidenced by the changes in the timing and magnitude of discharge, increasing water temperature, and by shifts in chemical composition of stream water. Ongoing monitoring and research is aimed at understanding how these changes will influence stream biota, particularly subsistence fish species.

We monitor streams and rivers in all Arctic parklands to address the following questions:

  • How is the magnitude and timing of stream discharge changing over time?
  • Are stream temperatures changing and what are the implications for stream biota?
  • How does the chemical composition of stream water vary of space and time?
  • How do watershed characteristics influence stream ecosystem properties?

Contact: Jon O’Donnell

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    Last updated: January 30, 2019