The Gulf of Alaska is one of the most productive marine ecosystems on Earth, supporting salmon fisheries that alone provide large economic benefits to Southeast Alaska. The region also has a vibrant and growing tourism industry. Glaciers are central to many of the area’s natural processes and economic activities, but the rates of glacier loss in Alaska are among the highest on Earth.
Glacier loss threatens to significantly change the amount and timing of nutrients delivered by streams to near-shore habitats. Changes in glacier runoff into the ocean may also impact coastal currents that contribute to vibrant nearshore marine ecosystems. Improving our understanding of how ecosystems depend on glaciers and what glacier loss might mean for these systems will help communities make better long-term decisions with regard to managing ecosystems along the Gulf of Alaska.
This project will integrate projections of future climate with data on snow accumulation, glacier mass, and streamflow to understand how sensitive glaciers might be to changes in climate. This information will then be used in data visualization tools to help simulate the impacts of glacier change on hydrology in the Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest. Data from this project will inform several high-priority glacier-influenced management issues in the Gulf of Alaska region, ranging across (but not limited to) tourism and viewshed evolution, changes in hydropower potential, vulnerability of shipping infrastructure, stream and lake contamination, and salmon habitat conservation and restoration.