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Title: The long term response of stream flow to climatic warming in headwater streams of interior Alaska

Author: Jones, Jeremy B.; Rinehart, Amanda J.;

Date: 2010

Source: Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 40: 1210-1218

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Warming in the boreal forest of interior Alaska will have fundamental impacts on stream ecosystems through changes in stream hydrology resulting from upslope loss of permafrost, alteration of availability of soil moisture, and the distribution of vegetation. We examined stream flow in three headwater streams of the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed (CPCRW) in interior Alaska over a 30-year period to determine (i) how stream flow varied among streams draining watersheds with varying extents of permafrost and (ii) evaluate if stream hydrology is changing with loss of permafrost. The three streams drained subcatchments with permafrost extents ranging from 4% to 53%. For each stream, runoff data were analyzed by separating base and storm flow contributions using a local-minimum method and with analysis of flood recession curves. Mean daily runoff during the ice-free season did not significantly vary among streams (mean = 0.57 mm x d-1), although the watersheds with lower permafrost had a greater contribution of base flow. Across years, flow was variable and was related with summer temperature in the watershed with low permafrost and with precipitation in the watershed with high permafrost. With climate warming and loss of permafrost, stream flows will become less responsive to precipitation and headwater streams may become ephemeral.

Keywords: climate change, permafrost thaw, hydrology

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Jones, Jeremy B.; Rinehart, Amanda J. 2010. The long-term response of stream flow to climatic warming in headwater streams of interior Alaska. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 40: 1210-1218.


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