Eran Hood, Ph.D. is Professor of Environmental Science
Glacier retreat creating new Pacific salmon habitat in western North AmericaGlacier retreat poses risks and benefits for species of cultural and economic importance. One example is Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), supporting subsistence harvests, and commercial and recreational fisheries worth billions of dollars annually. Although decreases in summer streamflow and warming freshwater is reducing salmon habitat quality in parts of their range, glacier retreat is creating new streams and lakes that salmon can colonize. However, potential gains in future salmon habitat associated with glacier loss have yet to be quantified across the range of Pacific salmon. Here we project future gains in Pacific salmon freshwater habitat by linking a model of glacier mass change for 315 glaciers, forced by five different Global Climate Models, with a simple model of salmon stream habitat potential throughout the Pacific Mountain ranges of western North America. We project that by the year 2100 glacier retreat will create 6,146 (±1,619) km of new streams accessible for colonization by Pacific salmon, of which 1,930 (±569) km have the potential to be used for spawning and juvenile rearing, representing 0 to 27% gains within the 18 sub-regions we studied. These findings can inform proactive management and conservation of Pacific salmon in this era of rapid climate change.
Assessing the Role of Photochemistry in Driving the Composition of Dissolved Organic Matter in Glacier RunoffDissolved organic matter (DOM) in glacier runoff is aliphatic-rich, yet studies have proposed that DOM originates mainly from allochthonous, aromatic, and often aged material. Allochthonous organic matter (OM) is exposed to ultraviolet radiation both in atmospheric transport and post-deposition on the glacier surface. Thus, we evaluate photochemistry as a mechanism to account for the compositional disconnect between allochthonous OM sources and glacier runoff DOM composition. Six endmember OM sources (including soils and diesel particulate matter) were leached and photo-irradiated for 28 days in a solar simulator, until >90% of initial chromophoric DOM was removed. Ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry was used to compare the molecular composition of endmember leachates pre- and post-irradiation to DOM in supraglacial and bulk runoff from the Greenland Ice Sheet and Juneau Icefield (Alaska), respectively. Photoirradiation drove molecular level convergence between the initially aromatic-rich leachates and aromatic-poor glacial samples, selectively removing aromatic compounds (−80 ± 19% relative abundance) and producing aliphatics (+75 ± 35% relative abundance). Molecular level glacier runoff DOM composition was statistically indistinguishable to post-irradiation leachates. Bray-Curtis analysis showed substantial similarity in the molecular formulae present between glacier samples and post-irradiation leachates. Post-irradiation leachates contained 84 ± 7.4% of the molecular formulae, including 72 ± 17% of the aliphatic formulae, detected in glacier samples. Our findings suggest that photodegradation, either in transit to or on glacier surfaces, could provide a mechanistic pathway to account for the disconnect between proposed aromatic, aged sources of OM and the aliphatic-rich fingerprint of glacial DOM.
A Changing Hydrological Regime: Trends in Magnitude and Timing of Glacier Ice Melt and Glacier Runoff in a High Latitude Coastal WatershedWith a unique biogeophysical signature relative to other freshwater sources, meltwater from glaciers plays a crucial role in the hydrological and ecological regime of high latitude coastal areas. Today, as glaciers worldwide exhibit persistent negative mass balance, glacier runoff is changing in both magnitude and timing, with potential downstream impacts on infrastructure, ecosystems, and ecosystem resources. However, runoff trends may be difficult to detect in coastal systems with large precipitation variability. Here, we use the coupled energy balance and water routing model SnowModel-HydroFlow to examine changes in timing and magnitude of runoff from the western Juneau Icefield in Southeast Alaska between 1980 and 2016. We find that under sustained glacier mass loss (−0.57 ± 0.12 m w. e. a−1), several hydrological variables related to runoff show increasing trends. This includes annual and spring glacier ice melt volumes (+10% and +16% decade−1) which, because of higher proportions of precipitation, translate to smaller increases in glacier runoff (+3% and +7% decade−1) and total watershed runoff (+1.4% and +3% decade−1). These results suggest that the western Juneau Icefield watersheds are still in an increasing glacier runoff period prior to reaching “peak water.” In terms of timing, we find that maximum glacier ice melt is occurring earlier (2.5 days decade−1), indicating a change in the source and quality of freshwater being delivered downstream in the early summer. Our findings highlight that even in maritime climates with large precipitation variability, high latitude coastal watersheds are experiencing hydrological regime change driven by ongoing glacier mass loss.
Climate-Mediated Changes to Linked Terrestrial and Marine Ecosystems across the Northeast Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest MarginCoastal margins are important areas of materials flux that link terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Consequently, climate-mediated changes to coastal terrestrial ecosystems and hydrologic regimes have high potential to influence nearshore ocean chemistry and food web dynamics. Research from tightly coupled, high-flux coastal ecosystems can advance understanding of terrestrial–marine links and climate sensitivities more generally. In the present article, we use the northeast Pacific coastal temperate rainforest as a model system to evaluate such links. We focus on key above- and belowground production and hydrological transport processes that control the land-to-ocean flow of materials and their influence on nearshore marine ecosystems. We evaluate how these connections may be altered by global climate change and we identify knowledge gaps in our understanding of the source, transport, and fate of terrestrial materials along this coastal margin. Finally, we propose five priority research themes in this region that are relevant for understanding coastal ecosystem links more broadly.