Churchill Northern Studies Center

Churchill, Canada

Churchill Northern Studies Center

Churchill, Canada
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Barrio I.C.,University of Iceland | Linden E.,Umeå University | Te Beest M.,Umeå University | Olofsson J.,Umeå University | And 61 more authors.
Polar Biology | Year: 2017

Chronic, low intensity herbivory by invertebrates, termed background herbivory, has been understudied in tundra, yet its impacts are likely to increase in a warmer Arctic. The magnitude of these changes is however hard to predict as we know little about the drivers of current levels of invertebrate herbivory in tundra. We assessed the intensity of invertebrate herbivory on a common tundra plant, the dwarf birch (Betula glandulosa-nana complex), and investigated its relationship to latitude and climate across the tundra biome. Leaf damage by defoliating, mining and gall-forming invertebrates was measured in samples collected from 192 sites at 56 locations. Our results indicate that invertebrate herbivory is nearly ubiquitous across the tundra biome but occurs at low intensity. On average, invertebrates damaged 11.2% of the leaves and removed 1.4% of total leaf area. The damage was mainly caused by external leaf feeders, and most damaged leaves were only slightly affected (12% leaf area lost). Foliar damage was consistently positively correlated with mid-summer (July) temperature and, to a lesser extent, precipitation in the year of data collection, irrespective of latitude. Our models predict that, on average, foliar losses to invertebrates on dwarf birch are likely to increase by 6–7% over the current levels with a 1 °C increase in summer temperatures. Our results show that invertebrate herbivory on dwarf birch is small in magnitude but given its prevalence and dependence on climatic variables, background invertebrate herbivory should be included in predictions of climate change impacts on tundra ecosystems. © 2017 Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany

Davenport J.M.,University of Montana | Seiwert P.A.,University of Central Arkansas | Fishback L.A.,Churchill Northern Studies Center | Cash W.B.,University of Central Arkansas
Canadian Journal of Zoology | Year: 2013

Fish can have strong predatory impacts on aquatic food webs. Indeed, fish are known to have strong effects on amphibians, with some species being excluded from communities where fish are present. Most research with amphibians and fish has focused on lower latitudes and very little is known of amphibian-fish interactions at higher latitudes. Therefore, we conducted an enclosure experiment in a subarctic natural wetland to examine the predatory effects of two species of fish, brook sticklebacks (Culaea inconstans (Cuvier, 1829)) and ninespine sticklebacks (Pungitius pungitius (L., 1758)), on the survival and growth of Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus (LeConte, 1825)). We found no significant difference in survival and size at metamorphosis among the two fish species treatments and fish-free treatments. We found that individuals from fish-free treatments metamorphosed earlier than those from either fish species present treatment. Our work suggests that stickleback fish predation may not have a major impact on Wood Frog tadpole survival and growth in a subarctic wetland. Sticklebacks may still have an impact on earlier developmental stages of Wood Frogs. This work begins to fill an important gap in potential factors that may impact larval amphibian survival and growth at higher latitudes.

Sanei H.,Geological Survey of Canada | Outridge P.M.,Geological Survey of Canada | Goodarzi F.,Geological Survey of Canada | Wang F.,University of Manitoba | And 3 more authors.
Atmospheric Environment | Year: 2010

This paper reports mercury (Hg) concentrations and fluxes in precipitation that was collected from 2006 to 2008 at three sites in Canada: sub-Arctic boreal forest, sub-Arctic coast, and southern Alberta, using cold-adapted precipitation collectors which operated reliably at temperatures below -30 °C during the study. The southern Alberta site (Crossfield) may be influenced by Calgary urban air, whereas the sub-Arctic coastal (Churchill, Manitoba) and boreal forest (Fort Vermilion, Alberta) sites are in more remote northern areas. Annual mean Hg concentrations in precipitation (5.0-9.2 ng L-1) at the study sites were in the lower half of the range reported for southern Canada and the USA by the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN). But owing to typically low precipitation rates, gross wet Hg fluxes (0.54-2.0 μg m-2 yr-1) were among the lowest reported by MDN, with Crossfield having about twice the flux in 2007 of the other two sites. Flux was significantly correlated with precipitation, and thus was highest in summer (June-August) and lowest during winter, a pattern typical of other temperate continental locations. There was no evidence of higher wet Hg fluxes or concentrations in springtime at Churchill where atmospheric mercury depletion events (AMDEs) occur. Measured gross deposition fluxes at the study locations were ∼2-8 times lower than estimated by GEOS-Chem and GRAHM atmospheric models. The largest discrepancy occurred for Churchill, which raises the question of how well Hg deposition from AMDEs is described by current models. Better agreement between measurements and models was obtained from MDN stations in Alberta and Alaska, where wet Hg fluxes were 2-10 times higher than the study sites either because of power plant emissions (Alberta), or because of high precipitation rates (Alaska). Crown Copyright © 2010.

Davenport J.M.,Southeast Missouri State University | Seiwert P.A.,University of Central Arkansas | Fishback L.,Churchill Northern Studies Center | Cash W.B.,University of Central Arkansas
Copeia | Year: 2016

In nature, prey are often simultaneously exposed to predators and competitors, leading to conflicting demands between survival and growth. Larval amphibians are model organisms to investigate the balancing of life history trade-offs because individuals must metamorphose before a wetland dries. Therefore, we deployed enclosures in a natural wetland to investigate the interactive effects of Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) density (50 or 100 tadpoles) and Brook Stickleback (Culaea inconstans) presence on survival and growth of tadpoles. We hypothesized that the effects of conspecific density on tadpole survival and growth would be dependent on the presence of fish predators. Stickleback predation significantly decreased Wood Frog survival; however, a trend of higher tadpole survival with fish was detected at high conspecific densities. Wood Frog time to and mass at metamorphosis was not significantly affected by either conspecific density or stickleback presence. Our results demonstrate that Brook Sticklebacks can play a significant role in regulating Wood Frog survival in a Subarctic wetland, but the impact is likely dependent on tadpole density. Therefore, this research highlights the dynamic and complex effects of competition and predation in a Subarctic wetland. Our study also contributes to the limited understanding of factors affecting amphibian community structure in Subarctic wetlands.

White J.,University of Waterloo | Hall R.,University of Waterloo | Wolfe B.,Wilfrid Laurier University | Light E.,Wilfrid Laurier University | And 2 more authors.
Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research | Year: 2014

Due to shallow depth and high surface area-to-volume ratio, ponds of the Hudson Bay Lowlands are vulnerable to climatic and hydrological changes, but relations between hydrological processes and limnological conditions remain unknown. Here, we measured water balance and limnological variables (water chemistry, suspended sediments, chlorophyll-a) at 20 ponds near Churchill (Manitoba) three times during the ice-free season of 2010 to explore relations among hydrological connectivity, basin morphometry, and water-chemistry variations. Using principal components analysis, we identified that the ponds followed one of four distinctive "seasonal water chemistry trajectories" (SWCT1-4). Most of the ponds that lacked apparent hydrologic connectivity displayed SWCT1, characterized by rising alkalinity and ionic content between early June and late July due to evaporative concentration. In contrast, most ponds with apparent hydrological connectivity displayed SWCT2 or SWCT3, characterized by marked changes in suspended sediment and total nitrogen concentrations due to inflow that transferred allochthonous materials from the catchment. Ponds in SWCT2 likely possessed temporary hydrological connections during periods of relatively high water supply and exhibited marked decline of suspended sediment and total nitrogen content when hydrological connection was lost. Most ponds in SWCT3 maintained active hydrological connections during all or most of the ice-free season and possessed relatively high suspended sediment and total nitrogen concentrations throughout the season. Ponds in SWCT4 possessed relatively stable water chemistry due to greater water depth and local features that reduced wind-induced sediment resuspension. We conclude that hydrological connectivity and basin morphometry exert important influence on seasonal pond water-chemistry dynamics.

Eichel K.,University of Waterloo | MacRae M.,University of Waterloo | Hall R.,University of Waterloo | Fishback L.,Churchill Northern Studies Center | Wolfe B.,Wilfrid Laurier University
Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research | Year: 2014

Climate warming is anticipated to affect high-latitude regions, including abundant ponds of the Hudson Bay Lowlands (HBL). However, it remains unclear if associated increased frequency of nutrient pulses will be rapidly consumed by aquatic biota and sediment or lead to a rise in pond-water nutrient concentrations. Here, we performed a nutrient-amendment experiment to examine short-term (‰72 h) nutrient uptake and identify the consumers of the added nutrients (planktonic vs. benthic communities). Microcosms (1 L) with and without sediment were experimentally amended with inorganic nitrogen (nitrate, ammonium) with and without phosphate. Amended nitrate and ammonium concentrations remained high in microcosms without sediments, and phytoplankton biomass did not change relative to the un-amended control. However, phosphate concentration declined significantly in microcosms without sediment, resulting in significant increase of phytoplankton biomass after 72 h. In the presence of sediment, amended nutrients were rapidly removed from the water, stimulating benthic algal biomass when phosphate was co-amended with ammonium or nitrate. Phytoplankton biomass was significantly elevated in microcosms with sediment compared to those without sediment, regardless of whether nutrients were amended or not, indicating that sediment and associated benthic biofilm stimulate phytoplankton growth, likely via supply of nutrients to the overlying water column. A key outcome of the experiment is that pulsed nutrients were taken up rapidly and primarily by the benthic community. Findings suggest that shallow ponds in the HBL are capable of rapidly consuming pulsed nutrient supplies, as may occur due to hydroclimatic events, climate warming and other disturbances.

Wolfe B.B.,Wilfrid Laurier University | Light E.M.,Wilfrid Laurier University | MacRae M.L.,University of Waterloo | Hall R.I.,University of Waterloo | And 5 more authors.
Geophysical Research Letters | Year: 2011

The hydrological fate of shallow tundra lakes and ponds under conditions of continued warming remains uncertain, but has important implications for wildlife habitat and biogeochemical cycling. Observations of unprecedented pond desiccation, in particular, signify catastrophic loss of aquatic habitat in some Arctic locations. Shallow tundra ponds are a ubiquitous feature in the western Hudson Bay Lowlands (HBL), a region that has undergone intense warming over the past ∼50years. But it remains unknown how hydrological processes in these ponds have responded. Here, we use cellulose-inferred pond water oxygen isotope records from sediment cores, informed by monitoring of modern pond water isotope compositions during the 2009 and 2010 ice-free seasons, to reconstruct hydrological conditions of four shallow tundra ponds in the western HBL over the past three centuries. Following an interval of relative hydrological stability during the early part of the records, results reveal widely differing hydrological responses to 20th century climate change among the study sites, which is largely dependent on hydrological connectivity of the basins within their respective surrounding peatlands. These findings suggest the 20th century has been characterized by an increasingly dynamic landscape that has variably influenced surface water balance-a factor that is likely to play a key role in determining the future water balance of ponds in this region. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.

Chambert T.,Pennsylvania State University | Chambert T.,U.S. Geological Survey | Hossack B.R.,U.S. Geological Survey | Fishback L.,Churchill Northern Studies Center | Davenport J.M.,Southeast Missouri State University
Methods in Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2016

N-mixture models have become a popular method for estimating abundance of free-ranging animals that are not marked or identified individually. These models have been used on count data for single species that can be identified with certainty. However, co-occurring species often look similar during one or more life stages, making it difficult to assign species for all recorded captures. This uncertainty creates problems for estimating species-specific abundance, and it can often limit life stages to which we can make inference. We present a new extension of N-mixture models that accounts for species uncertainty. In addition to estimating site-specific abundances and detection probabilities, this model allows estimating probability of correct assignment of species identity. We implement this hierarchical model in a Bayesian framework and provide all code for running the model in BUGS language programs. We present an application of the model on count data from two sympatric freshwater fishes, the brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans) and the ninespine stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), and illustrate implementation of covariate effects (habitat characteristics). In addition, we used a simulation study to validate the model and illustrate potential sample size issues. We also compared, for both real and simulated data, estimates provided by our model to those obtained by a simple N-mixture model when captures of unknown species identification were discarded. In the latter case, abundance estimates appeared highly biased and very imprecise, while our new model provided unbiased estimates with higher precision. This extension of the N-mixture model should be useful for a wide variety of studies and taxa, as species uncertainty is a common issue. It should notably help improve investigation of abundance and vital rate characteristics of organisms’ early life stages, which are sometimes more difficult to identify than adults. © 2016 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution © 2016 British Ecological Society

PubMed | U.S. Geological Survey, Southeast Missouri State University and Churchill Northern Studies Center
Type: | Journal: Global change biology | Year: 2016

Globally, Arctic and Subarctic regions have experienced the greatest temperature increases during the last 30years. These extreme changes have amplified threats to the freshwater ecosystems that dominate the landscape in many areas by altering water budgets. Several studies in temperate environments have examined the adaptive capacity of organisms to enhance our understanding of the potential repercussions of warming and associated accelerated drying for freshwater ecosystems. However, few experiments have examined these impacts in Arctic or Subarctic freshwater ecosystems, where the climate is changing most rapidly. To evaluate the capacity of a widespread ectotherm to anticipated environmental changes, we conducted a mesocosm experiment with wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) in the Canadian Subarctic. Three warming treatments were fully crossed with three drying treatments to simulate a range of predicted changes in wetland environments. We predicted wetland warming and drying would act synergistically, with water temperature partially compensating for some of the negative effects of accelerated drying. Across all drying regimes, a 1C increase in water temperature increased the odds of survival by 1.79, and tadpoles in 52-day and 64-day hydroperiod mesocosms were 4.1-4.3 times more likely to survive to metamorphosis than tadpoles in 45-day mesocosms. For individuals who survived to metamorphosis, there was only a weak negative effect of temperature on size. As expected, increased temperatures accelerated tadpole growth through day 30 of the experiment. Our results reveal that one of the dominant herbivores in Subarctic wetlands, wood frog tadpoles, are capable of increasing their developmental rates in response to increased temperature and accelerated drying, but only in an additive manner. The strong negative effects of drying on survival, combined with lack of compensation between these two environmental drivers, suggest changes in the aquatic environment that are expected in this ecosystem will reduce mean fitness of populations across the landscape.

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