Changing Seasonality and Arctic Stream Networks

Project Title:How does changing seasonality affect the capacity of arctic stream networks to influence nutrient fluxes from the landscape to the ocean?

Project Duration: 1-Sep-2009 - 31-Aug-2012
NSF ARC logo
Breck Bowden (University of Vermont)
Michael Gooseff (Penn State University)
Wil Wollheim (University of New Hampshire)
Project News:
01 Sep 2009 - official start date for this project
Jul-Sep 2010 - first field season at Toolik Field Station
Jul-Sep 2011 - second field season at Toolik Field Station

Overview: Stream networks are intimately connected to the landscapes through which they flow and significantly transform nutrients and organic matter that are in transport from landscapes to oceans. In previous research we studied several arctic headwater streams to determine how the seasonal development of the thaw basin (thawed sediments under streams) interacts with the hyporheic zone (a layer of surface sediments that contains water which exchanges continuously with water in the open channel). During this study we measured significant rates of net N and P regeneration from (or uptake by) the hyporheic zone during the mid-summer. In many cases this regeneration was important relative to, for example, the amount of N and P required to support primary production in these streams.

We seek to address two questions:
1.  How important is hyporheic regeneration relative to other important ecosystem or landscape fluxes (e.g. hyporheic mineralization, throughflow, lateral flow)?
2. How does the interaction among these processes differ over the extreme arctic season?

During the “shoulder seasons” in the arctic (spring and fall) the extent of sub-stream thaw basin controls the extent of the hyporheic zone, while during the summer the thaw basin is generally deeper than the hyporheic zone. This creates a situation – unique to the arctic – in which the hyporheic zone and its influences on stream biogeochemical processes change seasonally from being non-existent in the early spring and late fall to being fully formed and functional in the summer. Simultaneously, important terrestrial ecosystem characteristics and processes that affect stream function also vary seasonally (e.g., snowmelt, vegetation influences, DOM quantity and quality, microbial activity).

We propose to quantify the relative influences of throughflow, lateral inputs, and hyporheic regeneration on the seasonal fluxes C, N, and P in an arctic river network, and determine how these influences will shift under seasonal conditions that are likely to be substantially different in the future.

Location: Our field sites are within the Kuparuk River and Toolik Lake basins, north of the Brooks Range, Alaska. Our operations are based out of the Toolik Field Station, run by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Project Links: (links will be come live as we generate these products)

Tundra stream
Tundra stream in Northern Alaska.

Overview of this project within Arctic System Science, larger forcing factors, and other Arctic hydrologic research.

Published Results from this project:
(* indicates student lead author; title links are to abstracts, [poster] links are to .pdf versions of posters)
Journal Articles:

Coming soon!

Conference Presentations:
(* indicates student lead author; title links are to abstracts, [poster] links are to .pdf versions of posters)

1. *Wlostowski, AN, MN Gooseff, WB Bowden, WM Wollheim, M Herstand, CC Treat, and BL McGlynn. 2010. Channel water balances in Arctic tundra streams. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA (H31D-1032).

IGooseff, MN, KE Bencala, WB Bowden, BL McGlynn, RA Payn, K Singha, AS Ward, A Wlostowski, WM Wollheim. 2010. Context Conundrums: Observations and conceptual models are primary controls on interpretations of temporal and spatial scales of stream-groundwater interactions. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA (H33J-01).

                  measuring stream flow
Graduate student measuring streamflow across a peat-lined tundra stream.

Postdoctoral Researchers:
Kyle Wittinghill (University of New Hampshire)

Undergraduate Students:
Genna Waldvogel (REU, Unversity of Vermont)

Graduate Students:

Chris Bakey (MS student, Penn State University)
Malcolm Herstand (MS student, University of Vermont)
Lisle Snyder (MS student, University of Vermont)
Claire Treat (PhD student, University of New Hampshire)
Adam Wlostowski (MS student, Penn State University)

Related Links:

Climate Change Science Links:

Current weather in the Toolik Lake Area:
Click for Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska Forecast
Current Weather at Toolik Lake
(from ARC LTER met station; only active during the summer)
If this is blank, the weather station is not responding.

This project is funded through the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under collaborative grant nos. 0902029, 0902113, and 0902106. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation

This page was created on 19-Aug-2009.
This page was last updated on 22-Dec-2010.