Limnological Characteristics of a High Arctic Oasis and Comparisons across Northern Ellesmere Island

  • Bronwyn E. Keatley
  • Marianne S.V. Douglas
  • John P. Smol
Keywords: limnology, polar oasis, lakes, ponds, nutrients, DOC, climate change, Lake Hazen, Ellesmere Island, Canadian High Arctic

Abstract

Rapidly warming temperatures in the Arctic are predicted to markedly alter the limnology of tundra lakes and ponds. These changes include increases in aquatic production, pH, specific conductivity, and nutrient levels. However, baseline limnological data from High Arctic regions are typically restricted to single sampling events or to repeated samplings of a few select sites, which limits our ability to assess the influence of climatic change. We employ two techniques to examine the influence of a warmer climate on High Arctic aquatic ecosystems. First, we compare limnological characteristics in July 2003 of 23 ponds and lakes from an atypically warm High Arctic oasis on Ellesmere Island to those of 32 ponds and lakes located across northern Ellesmere Island, where climatic conditions are much cooler and more typical of High Arctic environments. Second, we resample 13 sites originally analyzed in 1963 to assess the influence that 40 years of rising temperatures (as documented by meteorological records) have had on the limnological characteristics of these freshwater ecosystems. The specific conductivity values, as well as the concentrations of nutrients and related variables (especially dissolved organic carbon, DOC), from the Arctic oasis sites are among the highest yet reported from the Canadian High Arctic, and they are significantly higher than those from the polar desert around northern Ellesmere Island. Comparison of the modern and historical data indicated that most oasis sites currently have higher pH than they did in 1963, which is consistent with the documented warming of temperatures.
Published
2009-12-10