Limnological characteristics of 56 lakes in the Central Canadian Arctic Treeline Region

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Kathleen M. RÜHLAND *
John P. SMOL
Xiaowa WANG
Derek C.G. MUIR
(*) Corresponding Author:
Kathleen M. RÜHLAND | 3kmr5@biology.queensu.ca

Abstract

Measured environmental variables from 56 lakes across the Central Canadian Treeline Region exhibited clear limnological differences among subpolar ecozones, reflecting strong latitudinal changes in biome characteristics (e.g. vegetation, permafrost, climate). Principal Components Analysis (PCA) clearly separated forested sites from tundra sites based on distinct differences in limnological characteristics. Increases in major ions and related variables (e.g. dissolved inorganic carbon, DIC) were higher in boreal forest sites in comparison to arctic tundra sites. The higher values recorded in the boreal forest lakes may be indirectly related to differences in climatic factors in these zones, such as the degree of permafrost development, higher precipitation and runoff, duration of ice-cover on the lakes, and thicker and better soil development. Similar to trends observed in DIC, substantially higher values for dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were measured in boreal forest lakes than in arctic tundra lakes. This was likely due to higher amounts of catchment-derived DOC entering the lakes from coniferous leaf litter sources. Relative to arctic tundra lakes, boreal forest lakes had higher nutrient concentrations, particularly total nitrogen (TN), likely due to warmer conditions, a longer growing season, and higher precipitation, which would enhance nutrient cycling and primary productivity. Results suggest that modern aquatic environments at opposite sides of the central Canadian arctic treeline (i.e. boreal forest and arctic tundra) exhibit distinct differences in water chemistry and physical conditions. These limnological trends may provide important information on possible future changes with additional warming.

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