• Effects of antimony mining on stream invertebrates and primary producers in Denali National Park, Alaska

      Wedemeyer, Kathleen (1987-12)
      Heavy metals, primarily antimony, arsenic and manganese from antimony mines in Denali National Park, Alaska impacted all levels of the stream ecosystem. Decreased algal, moss and macroinvertebrate abundance (but not changes in macroinvertebrate trophic organization) were all clearly associated with mining activity in Slate and Eldorado creeks. Crustacea, Chironomidae (Diptera), Hydracarina (Arachnida), Nemouridae (Plecoptera), and Zapada (Nemouridae) decreased in relative abundance with metal pollution while Capniidae (Plecoptera), Nemoura (Nemouridae), and Podmosta (Nemouridae) increased in relative abundance at mine sites. The data from Stampede Creek demonstrated that mineralized but unmined stream reaches may be impacted by heavy metals. Unexpectedly higher selenium levels upstream of the mine may account for the general lack of substantial differences in macroinvertebrates and periphyton upstream and downstream of the mine. However, macroinvertebrate and periphyton abundances were lower at both sites on Stampede Creek than at the unmined control stream, Jumbo Creek.
    • The influence of geomorphic and landscape characteristics on stream temperature and streamwater sensitivity to air temperature in the coastal temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska

      Winfree, Michael; Stuefer, Svetlana; Hood, Eran; Arp, Christopher; Schindler, Daniel (2017-05)
      Climate warming is projected to increase the regional air temperature in southeast Alaska and alter precipitation patterns and storage, with potentially important implications for the region's aquatic resources. Streamwater temperature is controlled by energy inputs from the atmosphere and surrounding environment that are modified by a watershed's geomorphic and landcover characteristics. The climate-landcover relationships that influence stream temperature have not been comprehensively evaluated in southeast Alaskan watersheds. Thus, improving our understanding of current streamwater thermal regimes is critical to better assess how these regimes may be altered by climate change on a regional scale. In this study, seasonal streamwater thermal regimes in forty-seven watersheds across southeast Alaska were evaluated, and the influence of watershed geomorphic and landscape characteristics on stream temperature and streamwater sensitivity to air temperature was assessed. Stream temperatures were measured during the 2015 water year and analyzed for winter and summer seasons. Mean summer stream temperature ranged from 4.0°C to 17.2°C, while mean winter stream temperature were less variable across the region, ranging from 0.5°C to 3.5°C. Maximum weekly average temperatures (MWAT) ranged from 4.3°C to 21.5°C. Regression and time series analyses revealed that lower latitude, low gradient watersheds with higher lake coverage experienced warmer maximum and average summer stream temperatures and were more sensitive to air temperature fluctuations compared to higher latitude watersheds with high gradients during the summer. Winter mean stream temperature was warmer in higher gradient watersheds with greater forest and lake coverage. Moreover, higher latitude watersheds with steep gradients were less sensitive to changes in air temperature relative to low gradient / low latitude watersheds during the winter. Findings from this study demonstrate thermal regimes and air sensitivity are moderated by watershed geomorphology and landcover to create streamwater thermal heterogeneity across the coastal temperate rainforest of southeast Alaska. Results presented herein demonstrate that streamwater sensitivity to air temperature fluctuations are moderated by watershed geomorphology, and should be considered as a framework for predicting thermal regimes to assess relative watershed thermal response to climate change. This information, in turn, is important for quantifying the likely magnitude and spatial extent of climate-driven thermal impacts on Pacific salmon during their freshwater life history stages in southeast Alaska.
    • Marine-derived nutrients in riverine ecosystems: developing tools for tracking movement and assessing effects in food webs on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

      Rinella, Daniel J. (2010-05)
      Marine-derived nutrients (MDN) delivered by spawning Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) contribute to the productivity of riverine ecosystems. Optimizing methods for measuring MDN assimilation in food webs will foster the development of ecologically based resource management approaches. This dissertation aims to better understand relationships among spawning salmon abundance, biochemical measures of MDN assimilation, and the fitness of stream-dwelling fishes. The goals of my first research chapter were (1) to understand the factors that influence stable isotope ([delta]¹³C, [delta]¹⁵N, and [delta]³⁴S) and fatty acid measures of MDN assimilation in stream and riparian biota, and (2) to examine the ability of these measures to differentiate among sites that vary in spawning salmon biomass. For all biota studied, stable isotopes and fatty acids indicated that MDN assimilation increased with spawner abundance. Among Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma), larger individuals assimilated proportionately more MDN. Seasonal effects were detected for aquatic macroinvertebrates and riparian horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile), but not for Dolly Varden. Of all dependent variables, Dolly Varden [delta]¹⁵N had the clearest relationship with spawner abundance, making this a good measure for monitoring MDN assimilation. Expanding on these results, two chapters examined potential fisheries management applications. The first sought to identify spawner levels above which stream-dwelling Dolly Varden and coho salmon (O. kisutch) parr cease to gain physiological benefits associated with MDN. RNA-DNA ratios (an index of recent growth rate) and energy density indicated saturation responses where values increased rapidly with spawner abundance up to approximately 1 kg/m² and then leveled off. In coho salmon parr, energy density and RNA-DNA ratios correlated significantly with [delta]¹⁵N. These results show strong linkages between MDN and fish fitness responses, while the saturation points may indicate spawner densities that balance salmon harvest with the ecological benefits of MDN. The second application tested a quick and inexpensive method for estimating, spawning salmon abundance based on [delta]¹⁵N in stream-dwelling fishes. Estimates made with coho salmon pair were unbiased, tightly correlated with observed values, and had a mean absolute deviation of 1.4 MT spawner biomass/km. Application of this method would allow estimates of annual escapement to be made on a potentially large number of streams.