University of Alaska Fairbanks
Food webs in flux: tracking freshwater delivery of nutrients to coastal ecosystems
In Southeast Alaska, rapidly receding glaciers and changes in rainfall have a major impact on freshwater discharge and will affect the transport of nutrients to coastal ecosystems. Estuaries – where freshwaters meet the coast – provide essential habitats and food resources for juvenile salmon, forage fish, Dungeness crab, and numerous other ecologically and commercially important species. Changes in the delivery of nutrients downstream could affect the structure, functioning, and productivity of estuary food webs; however, our ability to assess these impacts is greatly limited by a scarcity of baseline data on biological communities. We propose to (1) characterize the structure of fish and invertebrate communities in Southeast Alaska estuaries, including how they vary in time and space, and (2) determine the importance of organic matter (energy and nutrients) delivered from glacial and non‐glacial freshwater systems to estuary food webs using a combination of nearshore surveys and stable isotopes. The results will provide fundamental information needed to assess future changes to species and food webs so that we can better understand how to sustainably use and manage our coastal ecosystems. We will engage the Juneau community in data collection and provide hands‐on education through development of a citizen science program that provides the opportunity for the public to explore and observe the plants, animals, and habitats along the Juneau road system and promotes increased stewardship of the local environment.
Data and Resources
Start Date: 2013/07/01
End Date: 2016/05/31