Alaska Science Center

Hydro-ecological responses to permafrost degradation in Arctic streams

Recent warming in the boreal-arctic ecotone has accelerated rates of permafrost thaw, but we know little about how thaw may impact watershed hydrology, water quality, and fish habitat.


Climate warming is accelerating thawing of frozen ground (i.e., permafrost), leading to a myriad of changes in physical and chemical conditions throughout the Arctic. These changes have the potential to directly affect fish habitat and metabolism, and can also alter food resources available to fish. While these physical changes have already been observed in interior Alaska, their effects on ecosystems, fish, and wildlife are poorly understood. This 5 year study will assess the potential effects of permafrost thaw on streams and their fish and will provide major advances in our understanding of hydrology and fish at the boreal-arctic transition, as well as a direct link (through stream temperature) to couple climate change and fish metabolism. This glimpse into Alaska’s future has broad implications for understanding the rates and mechanisms of landscape change, with implications for these two fish species as well as the broader fish community. This research program will inform management decisions on development activities and enable predictions on the effects of climate change for wildlife outcomes.
Title Type
Stream and River Chemistry in Watersheds of Northwestern Alaska, 2015-2019Data
Meteorological Data from Two Locations in the Agashashok River Watershed, Northwestern Alaska, 2015 to 2017Data
Continuous Records of Shallow Soil Temperature and Moisture in the Noatak River Basin, AlaskaData
Stream Temperatures in the Noatak River and Kobuk River Basins, Northwest Alaska, 2017 - 2019Data
Physical, Hydraulic, and Thermal Properties of Soils in the Noatak River Basin, Alaska, 2016Data
Water Level, Temperature, and Discharge of Headwater Streams in the Noatak and Kobuk River Basins, Northwest Alaska, 2015 - 2017Data
Carbon Isotope Concentrations in Stream Food Webs of the Arctic Network National Parks, Alaska, 2014-2016Data
Hydro-Ecology of Arctic Thaw (HEAT) Project SiteProject Website


Carey, Michael , 907-786-7197
Koch, Joshua C., 907-786-7119

Status: completed
Start Year: 2016
End Year: 2019

Project Sites

USGS Mission Area and Program
EcosystemsEnvironments Program