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From their orange tent on the tundra of the North Slope of Alaska, Ecosystems Center scientists were able to see two of nature's spectacles: the full moon as it reflected on Green Cabin Lake and the Aurora borealis. The Fishscape project studies the effects of shifting seasonality of river hydrology on Arctic aquatic ecosystems.(Photo: Cameron MacKenzie)

Shifting Seasonality on the North Slope: Using Arctic Grayling to Measure Climate-based Disruptions

Ecosystems Center scientists in the Arctic have documented evidence of longer ice-free periods in tundra watersheds. In the Fishscape project, Linda Deegan, Bruce Peterson, and Cameron MacKenzie of the Ecosystems Center, along with Alex Huryn of University of Alabama, are studying how climate-caused changes in seasonality - the temporal pattern of grayling migration and hydrology across the season -- disrupt ecosystem dynamics within and between lake and stream components of watersheds.

From their site on the North Slope of the Brooks Mountain Range, Alaska, researchers on the project study Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus), an important circumpolar species that provides a model system for understanding the impacts of changing seasonality on the Arctic ecosystem. Grayling serve as food for other biota, including lake trout, birds and humans, and as predators in stream ecosystems. Grayling spend their summers in streams but are obligated to move back into deep overwintering lakes in the fall, suggesting that processes that influence their population dynamics will have effects that reverberate throughout the Arctic watersheds.