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Assessing Climate-Mediated Impacts to Boreal Lakes through Whole-Ecosystem Manipulation


Blasting of the diversion channel created to disconnect the study lake (Lake 626) from the watershed to simulate the drier conditions predicted by climate change scenarios. Photo: DFO

This project experimentally disconnected a lake from its upstream watershed to observe how a whole aquatic ecosystem responds to the drier conditions predicted by climate change. It aims to understand how dry conditions change lake characteristics and how they affect factors such as energy flow, fish habitat, and population.

Results: Researchers collected a complete set of data necessary to observe the impacts of their climate change simulations on the experimental lake. Results showed a dramatic increase in water residence time, from two years in reference conditions to 13 years in the experimental lake. The researchers predicted that dissolved organic carbon in the lake would decrease, causing an increase in water clarity and, subsequently, temperature. The beginnings of these changes were observed and further study using lake-climate models suggest that there will be a complete loss of trout habitat in the experimental lake as these conditions evolve.

This project demonstrated that boreal lakes are sensitive to climate-induced water quality changes. It should be noted that the study of the experimental lake under these conditions is only in its second year and more changes are likely to be observed as the system reacts further to experimental conditions. A scientific publication is being prepared to present the results of this project.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Central Canada: Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Freshwater Drainage Basin

Principal Investigator(s)

Paul Blanchfield
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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