• Urban stream management: interdisciplinary assessment of the Ship Creek fishery

      Krupa, Meagan B. (2009-05)
      The Lower Ship Creek Fishery in the city of Anchorage, Alaska is one of the state's most popular sport fisheries. After years of channelization and development, this social-ecological system (SES) continues to experience the effects of urbanization and is struggling to achieve robustness. I applied a robustness framework to the management of management this fishery because of its semi-engineered nature. This framework uses interdisciplinary methods to study the interrelationships between the fishery's socio-economic and ecological components. Robustness is more appropriate than resilience as an analytical framework because of the relative insensitivity of the engineered components to ecological feedbacks. On Lower Ship Creek, the engineered hatchery fish continue to thrive despite declining stream conditions. The robustness of this fishery contributes to the resilience of the city by increasing local food and recreation options and supporting a diverse set of businesses. To study the robustness of this SES in the context of the resilience of Anchorage, I first combined historical photos and existing Ship Creek data with research conducted on other streams to create an environmental history of the creek. This history then was used to describe how eras of urban development have altered the creek's ecosystem processes and created new ecological constraints related to 1) loss of wetlands and riparian vegetation; 2) erosion, pollution, and channelization; 3) loss of fish species; and 4) flow alteration and habitat loss. Using Lovecraft's (2008) typology, I proposed four plausible management scenarios that highlight the trade-offs associated with management of this fishery: 1) Ship Creek Redesign, 2) Mitigation, Construction, and Maintenance, 3) KAPP Dam Removal, and 4) Business as Usual. The second of these scenarios is most consistent with the current ecological constraints, the characteristics preferred by most stakeholders, and current socio-economic trends. Since Scenario 2 will require a large monetary investment, I examined this SES's cost structure and compared it with previously published analyses of the economic benefits of the fishery. By quantifying the costs borne by each agency, I showed how externalities produce intra- and inter-agency tension. These data were used to construct a new cost-sharing framework that provides decision makers with an economic incentive to work more cooperatively in the future. I then explored the interrelationship of the SES's socioeconomic and ecological subsystems, using Anderies et al.'s (2004) framework. I applied Ostrom's design principles (1990) to sport fisheries to explore the reasons why agencies have not cooperated to produce a more robust fishery. This SES fails to meet three of the design principles: it lacks 1) an equal proportion of benefits and costs, 2) collective-choice arrangements, and 3) user and biophysical monitoring. I then suggest how to improve the design and increase the robustness of this SES. This study proposes that the maintenance of semi-engineered systems is important both for local users and for the resilience of states and countries. In the context of global trends toward increasing urbanization, this study provides an interdisciplinary approach to increasing the robustness of urban streams and building resilience within states and countries.
    • The use of aerial imagery to map in-stream physical habitat related to summer distribution of juvenile salmonids in a Southcentral Alaskan stream

      Perschbacher, Jeff; Margraf, F. Joseph; Hasbrouck, James; Wipfli, Mark; Prakash, Anupma (2011-12)
      Airborne remote sensing (3-band multispectral imagery) was used to assess in-stream physical habitat related to summer distributions of juvenile salmonids in a Southcentral Alaskan stream. The objectives of this study were to test the accuracy of using remote sensing spectral and spatial classification techniques to map in-stream physical habitat, and test hypotheses of spatial segregation of ranked densities of juvenile chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tschwytscha, coho salmon O. kisutch, and rainbow trout O. mykiss, related to stream order and drainage. To relate habitat measured with remote sensing to fish densities, a supervised classification technique based on spectral signature was used to classify riffles, non-riffles, vegetation, shade, gravel, and eddy drop zones, with a spatial technique used to classify large woody debris. Combining the two classification techniques resulted in an overall user's accuracy of 85%, compared to results from similar studies (11-80%). Densities of juvenile salmonids was found to be significantly different between stream orders, but not between the two major drainages. Habitat data collected along a 500-meter stream reach were used successfully to map in-stream physical habitat for six river-kilometers of a fourth-order streams. The use of relatively inexpensive aerial imagery to classify in-stream physical habitats is cost effective and repeatable for mapping over large areas, and should be considered an effective tool for fisheries and land-use managers.
    • Variation in age and size at maturity of Lake Clark, Alaska sockeye salmon

      Benolkin, Elizabeth B.; Margraf, Joseph; Woody, Carol Ann; Adkison, Milo (2009-12)
      Salmon returning to Lake Clark, Alaska are a valuable subsistence, commercial and ecological resource, and are an important component of the larger Kvichak River escapement. Average escapement to the Kvichak River declined sharply during 1996-2005, prompting studies to investigate age and size at maturity, key life history traits of salmon linked to reproductive success and survival. We examined potential factors which may influence sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka age and size at maturity: spawning habitat and ocean environment, and examined variation in both traits over time. Sockeye salmon age and length at maturity differed among spawning locations and between brood years, but no consistent patterns were observed among habitat types. Age and length at maturity differed over time; the proportion of older marine age 3 fish was larger in recent brood years, while fish were smaller during 1997-2001 compared to 1976-1980. Sea surface temperatures and coastal upwelling appeared to be important indicators of fish length, highlighting the importance of the ocean environment in salmon growth. These results demonstrate the complexity and importance of both the freshwater and ocean ecosystems in variation in age and size at maturity, and indicate that trends may not necessarily be similar among systems or years.
    • Vegetation-Climate Interactions Along A Transition From Tundra To Boreal Forest In Alaska

      Thompson, Catharine Copass; McGuire, A. David (2005)
      The climate of the Alaskan Arctic is warming more rapidly than at any time in the last 400 years. Climate changes of the magnitude occurring in high latitudes have the potential to alter both the structure and function of arctic ecosystems. Structural responses reflect changes in community composition, which may also influence ecosystem function. Functional responses change the biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nutrients. We examined the structural and functional interactions between vegetation and climate across a gradient of vegetation types from arctic tundra to boreal forest. Canopy complexity combines vegetation structural properties such as biomass, cover, height, leaf area index (LAI) and stem area index (SAI). Canopy complexity determines the amount of the energy that will be available in an ecosystem and will also greatly influence the partitioning of that energy into different land surface processes such as heating the air, evaporating water and warming the ground. Across a gradient of sites in Western Alaska, we found that increasing canopy complexity was linked to increased sensible heating. Thus, vegetation structural changes could represent an important positive feedback to warming. Structural changes in ecosystems are linked to changes in ecosystem function. High latitude ecosystems play an important role in the earth's climate system because they contain nearly 40% of the world's reactive soil carbon. We examined Net Ecosystem Production (NEP) in major community types of Northern Alaska using a combination of field-based measurements and modeling. Modeled NEP decreased in both warmer and drier and warmer and wetter conditions. However, in colder and wetter conditions, NEP increased. The net effect for the region was a slight gain in ecosystem carbon; however, our research highlights the importance of climate variability in the carbon balance of the study region during the last two decades. The next step forward with this research will be to incorporate these results into coupled models of the land-atmosphere system. Improved representations of ecosystem structure and function will improve our ability to predict future responses of vegetation composition, carbon storage, and climate and will allow us to better examine the interactions between vegetation and the atmosphere in the context of a changing climate.
    • Waterbird distribution and habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region, U.S.A.

      Steen, Valerie (2010-12)
      The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of north-central North America provides some of the most critical wetland habitat continent-wide to waterbirds. Agricultural conversion has resulted in widespread wetland drainage. Furthermore, climate change projections indicate a drier future, which will alter remaining wetland habitats. I evaluated Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) habitat selection and the potential impacts of climate change on the distribution of waterbird species. To examine Black Tern habitat selection, I surveyed 589 wetlands in North and South Dakota in 2008-09, then created multivariate habitat models. I documented breeding at 5% and foraging at 17% of wetlands surveyed, and found local variables were more important predictors of use than landscape variables, evidence for differential selection of wetlands where breeding and foraging occurred, and evidence fora more limited role of area sensitivity (wetland size). To examine the potential effects of climate change, I created models relating occurrence of five waterbird species to climate and wetland variables for the U.S. PPR. Projected range reductions were 28 to 99%, with an average of 64% for all species. Models also predicted that, given even wetland density, the best areas to conserve under climate change are Northern North Dakota and Minnesota.
    • Winter forage selection by barren-ground caribou: effects of fire and snow

      Saperstein, Lisa Beth (1993-05)
      Snow depth and hardness were the most influential factors in selection of feeding areas by caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in late winter in northwestern Alaska. Following a 1988 fire, plots were established in late March through April in burned and unbumed tussock tundra in 1990 and 1991. Snow in both burned and unbumed plots was shallower and softer at edges of caribou feeding craters than at adjacent undisturbed points in both years. There was little difference in snow depth or hardness between burned and unbumed plots, although caribou cratered in shallower snow in burned plots than in unbumed plots in 1990. Crater area was greater in unbumed plots in 1990, but there was no difference in crater area between burned and unbumed plots in 1991. Frequencies of particular plant taxa were only significant in determining selection of crater sites in unbumed plots in 1990, when caribou craters had higher relative frequencies of lichens and lower frequencies of bryophytes than unused areas. Fire reduced relative frequency and biomass of most plant taxa, with the exception of post-disturbance species, which occurred primarily in burned plots. Lichens were reduced in burned plots, and lichens composed 59-74% of the late-winter diet of caribou, as determined by microhistological analysis of fecal pellets. Biomass and relative frequency of Eriophorum vaginatum was greater in burned plots than in unbumed plots in 1991, and protein and in vitro digestibility levels were enhanced in samples of this species collected from burned plots in late winter.
    • Winter foraging ecology of moose in the Tanana Flats and Alaska Range foothills

      Seaton, C. Tom (2002-12)
      I studied woody browse distribution, production, removal, species composition, twig size, moose diets, and predicted daily intake of resident and migratory moose in the Tanana Flats and adjacent Alaska Range Foothills, Alaska, 1999-2000. Density of moose in these areas was high (1.1 moose/km²). Moose were experiencing density-dependent effects on reproduction and growth, exhibited by low adult twinning rate (6%) and absence of pregnant yearlings, yet 17.5 kg higher 10-month-old calf body weights in the migratory segment. Of all willow, poplar, and paper birch plants sampled, 74% had a broomed architecture, which I attributed to heavy use by moose. Using a model of daily moose intake based on bite mass and bite density, I estimated that 1) migratory moose met expected intake during winter while intake of resident moose was marginal, 2) moose could not meet their expected daily intake with the mean twig dry mass (0.26 g) remaining unbrowsed at end of winter, and 3) higher predicted intake by migratory moose than resident moose was consistent with their higher 10-month-old calf weights.
    • Winter habitat of arctic grayling in an interior Alaska stream

      Lubinski, Brian R. (1995-05)
      Placer mining and the lack of information on winter ecology of Arctic grayling Thymallus arcticus. has raised concern for this popular sportfish. A study was designed to validate aerial radio telemetry data and to locate and describe overwinter areas (OWA) of Arctic grayling in Beaver Creek, Alaska. Reliance on aerial data alone resulted in overestimation of survival and misidentification of 14 of 26 designated OWAs. Twenty-one Arctic grayling were tracked downstream 12-58 km to 12 OWAs spanning a 31-km section of Beaver Creek. Radio-tagged and untagged Arctic grayling occupied areas with ice thickness of 0.4-1.4 m overlying 0.06-0.52 m of water, flowing at 0.03-0.56 m/s. During winter, discharge, cross-sectional area, velocities, and water width in four OWAs decreased until late March; then, cross-sectional area increased due to an increase in discharge that pushed the ice upward. Adult Arctic grayling overwintered downstream of habitat disturbances, and occupied much shallower winter habitats than expected.