Beaufort Lagoon Ecosystem (Start date: August 1, 2017)

Researcher James McClelland sampling water during ice break-up in Kaktovik Lagoon, Alaska. Credit: Kenneth Dunton, Marine Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin.

Overview: Research based out of Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Deadhorse, and Kaktovik will address how changes in shoreline erosion and freshwater inflows to the coastal ocean over seasonal, annual, and longer timeframes influence near-shore food webs. Research will be conducted in collaboration with local stakeholder groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This research will advance our fundamental understanding of how input of materials from land and oceanographic conditions interact to influence coastal food webs. It will also allow us to track and understand: 1) how natural climate cycles influence coastal ecosystems in the Arctic, and 2) how climate change effects such as permafrost thaw, shifting precipitation regimes, and losses of sea ice alter coastal ecosystems.

History: Start Date: August 1, 2017.
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Research Topics: Recent studies suggest that the ecological framework for understanding what controls food web structure needs to be expanded to include temporal forcing. More specifically, there is mounting evidence that differential availability of seasonally-distinct resources is critical for defining trophic linkages and maintaining stability and resilience of food webs. This new LTER program will use lagoons along the Alaskan Beaufort Sea coast as experimental units to test this concept, and broaden it to include temporal variations over longer timeframes.


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