Canada's subarctic lakes could face widespread desiccation

Feb 04, 2014

In Canada's subarctic—the boreal ecosystem that spans most of mainland Canada—the temperature is climbing and the snowpack is thinning. Previous research has shown that snow is disappearing even faster than sea ice.

Researchers are concerned that the decline in will spell the end of many of the country's abundant subarctic lakes, and the unique ecosystems they support. These worries are supported by recent observations that show subarctic lakes drying out. To assess the susceptibility of subarctic lakes to widespread desiccation, Bouchard et al. spent multiple years monitoring changes in subarctic lakes. They find that many subarctic lakes are sensitive to changes in snowmelt, and that recent bouts of drying may be unprecedented in the past 200 years.

The Old Crow Flats and the Hudson Bay Lowlands, the sites of the authors' investigation, are two of the largest subarctic lake-rich ecosystems in North America. Permafrost in the ground, and silt- and clay-rich soils prevent water from seeping through the ground, creating landscapes covered with thousands of shallow thermokarst lakes.

With little water moving through the ecosystem other than that which flows overland, the authors find that the stability of these subarctic lakes depends crucially on winter snowfall and spring snowmelt. They find that lakes in regions with flat terrain and sparse vegetation are most susceptible to evaporative lake-level drawdown at times when snowmelt runoff is low. If current trends continue, the researchers say, many of these small snow-fed tundra lakes could disappear within the next few years to decades.

Explore further: Subarctic lakes are drying up at a rate not seen in 200 years

More information: Vulnerability of shallow subarctic lakes to evaporate and desiccate when snowmelt runoff is low, Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/2013GL058635 , 2013 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013GL058635/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Arctic lakes show climate on thin ice

Feb 03, 2014

(Phys.org) —Ice in northern Alaska's lakes during winter months is on the decline. Twenty years of satellite radar imagery show how changes in our climate are affecting high-latitude environments.

Lakes discovered beneath Greenland ice sheet

Nov 27, 2013

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, discovered two subglacial lakes 800 metres below the Greenland Ice Sheet. The two lakes are each roughly 8-10 km2, and at one point may have been up to t ...

How many lakes are there, and how big are they?

Feb 11, 2013

Because of the important role lakes play in regional and local biogeochemical cycling, including carbon storage and emissions, scientists need to know how many lakes of various sizes exist. However, determining the size distribution ...

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

Apr 18, 2014

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...