University of Alberta biologist Rolf Vinebrooke and postdoctoral fellow and former Canadian Mountain Network (CMN) intern Charlie Loewen are studying impacts of climate change on mountain lakes across North America. This new article details their research on zooplankton as indicators of the health of mountain lakes and the effects of climate change on aquatic ecosystems.
Vinebrooke and Loewen conducted statistical analyses on 30 years’ worth of complex, fine-scale environmental data from more than 1,200 lakes ranging from the Yukon to the Sierra Nevada in California. They discovered that looking at zooplankton to assess lake health offers advantages over trying to take direct measurements of the lakes themselves, which is intense, expensive and time-consuming. By understanding the ecological traits of each species of zooplankton, a bioindicator approach can be used to assess ecosystem function more efficiently.
The Canadian Mountain Network is also proud to support Vinebrooke’s three-year project: From the Mountains to Our Tables: Freshwater Security in Three Canadian Eastern Rocky Mountain Watersheds. The goal of the study is to quantify the past, present and future impacts of climate change and pollutants on glacially-sourced river health and function in watersheds in Banff and Jasper National Parks.
In semi-arid regions like Alberta, mountains provide 70-90% of water upon which we rely, and glaciers are an essential component. Because snow and glaciers cover high-altitude areas, climate change affects how water moves downstream, impacts water temperature and affects biodiversity and ecosystem function.
This multidisciplinary and multisectoral project builds upon existing provincial and federal monitoring programs, and includes leading scientists, managers, local leaders from Provincial and Federal Governments, industry and First Nations communities.
Both of these studies will help measure the health of aquatic mountain ecosystems and predict how they will respond to a rapidly changing climate.