Arctic coastal ecosystems: Evaluating the functional role and connectivity of lagoon and nearshore habitats
Recent research efforts aimed at understanding the marine ecosystem in the US Arctic have overlooked the barrier-island lagoon and nearshore systems. Despite this area’s importance for subsistence fisheries and as foraging habitat for protected marine mammals and seabirds it’s contribution to Arctic productivity is unknown. Further, it is unwise to assume that Arctic barrier island systems function similarly as lower latitude systems, particularly as fast ice conditions in lagoons have the capacity to extend through the entire water column displacing or injuring animals, and potentially resetting the pelagic ecosystem annually. Thus, it is unknown what role these lagoons serve (i.e., nursery areas) or if these shallow habitats can be classified as essential fish habitat. This is in large part because their shallow nature defies traditional survey methods. Nevertheless, retreating sea ice, oil/gas exploration, increased marine transportation and potential oil spills are obvious and imminent threats to these areas. We plan a multi-faceted field and laboratory-based survey aimed at improving our understanding of the importance of these habitats in structuring the distribution, abundance and condition of invertebrates and fishes by combining active and passive collections from small shallow-draft vessels and a novel autonomous sampling platform near Barrow and Wainwright, Alaska. Results from this study will provide an understanding of the productivity of Arctic nearshore habitats and their overall importance and contribution to the Arctic ecosystem and promote awareness of the potential impacts and vulnerability to climate induced changes and anthropogenic alterations.
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Status was changed to Complete