Funded Research Projects: FOREST ECOLOGY

Vulnerability of inland waters and the aquatic carbon cycle to changing permafrost and climate across boreal northwestern North America

Research Sponsored By: USDI US Geological Survey
Principal Investigator: David Butman
Project Description
Lakes, stream networks, and wetland complexes in interior Alaska are part of integrated and interconnected ecosystems providing a variety of services to society including climate regulation, provisioning, recreational opportunities, and cultural/spiritual resources. The vulnerability of these services to drivers of change depends on exposure (magnitude and rate of change), sensitivity, and resilience to change. Recent investigations across boreal northwestern North America have made important strides toward understanding responses in water and carbon distribution, biogeochemical cycling, transport, and greenhouse gas exchange with the atmosphere, to climate, fire, and permafrost perturbations, at local to regional scales. However, ecosystem responses across heterogeneous landscapes will be neither spatially uniform nor synchronous, thereby imposing upscaling limitations on small-scale investigations and resolution limitations on large-scale models. Furthermore, coupled feedbacks and potential tipping points supply additional complexity to forecasting consequences of change that may go unobserved in short-term studies and are not represented in long-term model projections that lack process-level dynamics. This project will take a cross-scale, integrated multidiscipline approach to collect and assemble accurate and defensible data to drive and accurately assess climate and landscape disturbance modeling of hydrologic, biogeochemical, and physical processes that affect ecosystem services across northern high latitudes. The results of our integrated studies will provide foundational information for land managers, communities, researchers, and other stakeholders about conditions, settings, and ecosystem services most vulnerable to climate change, fire, and other relevant landscape disturbance in boreal regions.