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10TuesdayMay282013EnvironmentWatershedsMEDIASPONSORLTD.June152013FormoreinformationpleasecontactClaudetteJamesat867872-0168oratPermafrostmeltlinkedtofewerbugsinPeelsystemByMEAGANWOHLBERGResearchersinthePeelPla-teauarendingdirectcorrela-tionsbetweenpermafrostdis-turbanceandlowernumbersofinvertebrateorganismsintheriversystemanindicationthatallmaynotberightwithrespecttoecosystemhealth.ScientistswiththeCumula-tiveImpactMonitoringPro-gramCIMPaprogramrunthroughthefederaldepart-mentofAboriginalAffairsandNorthernDevelopmentAANDChavediscoveredanobvioustrendintheben-thicpopulations-thesmallbugsthatliveatthebottomofrivers-inrelationtotheirproximitytositeswherepermafrostdegradationisoccurring.Whatwefoundsofarinourstudyisthatwhenwesampleimpactedlocationsandlocationsthatarentimpactedtheresadiffer-enceintheabundanceofbenthicinvertebrates.Spe-cicallythereslessinver-tebrates-lessbugs-inthesitesthathavebeenimpactedwhenyoucomparethemtothesitesthatarentimpactedbysedimentsinthewaterMarcLangedirectorofRe-newableResourcesandEn-vironmentwithAANDCtoldTheJournal.Theresultsshowthatin-vertebratesareasmuchas10timeslessplentifulinareasnearpermafrostslumping-alandscapedisturbancecausedbythemeltingofper-mafrostice-astheyareinareaswheretherehasbeennodisturbance.Researcherssampled34sitesin201024ofwhichwereneardisturbances-and30in2012intheStonyCreekareawestofFortMcPher-sonandnorthoftheDemp-sterHighwaywithinthePeelPlateauanareaextendingsouthalongtheYukonbor-derallthewaytotheMoun-tainRiver.Waterqualitythepres-enceofvegetationthesizeofrocksandsandatthebot-tomoftheriveralongwithstreamwidthdepthandve-locityhavebeennotedpluscomponentsofwaterchem-istrysuchaspHaspartofthemonitoringwork.Thoughtheresearchersareunsurewhatexactlyiscaus-ingthedifferenceLangesaidturbidity-ortheamountofundissolvedsedimentspres-entinthewater-seemstobethemainfactor.Otherstudieshavecitedthatinvertebratescangetirri-tatedbyturbidity...soitmightbethattheyredisplacedthattheymoveawayhesaid.Whileotherstudiesonpermafrostintheareaarelookingatincreasedcon-centrationsofionssuchassulphatesandcalciumbeingleachedintotheriversystemviathemeltingofancienticeLangesaidthepresenceofthoseionsinrelationtothebugpopulationhasntbeenlookedatyetasdataonthatisstillbeingcollectedandanalyzed.Whileonestudyislook-ingmoredirectlyattheland-scapechangestheresearchoninvertebratesbeganasawaytomeasurewhetherornotthosedisturbanceswerehavinganimpactonthehealthoftheriverecosystems.Thereslessinvertebrates-lessbugs-inthesitesthathavebeenimpactedwhenyoucomparethemtothesitesthatarentimpactedbysedimentsinthewater.MarcLangeAboriginalAffairsandNorthernDevelopmentCanadaThisyearwellbeanalyz-ingsomeoftheinformationwecollectedlastsummerbasicallysomeadditionalsitestoconrmsomeofthetrendsandthenthissummerwellbeworkingwithgradstudentstorevisitsomeofthesiteswevealreadybeentotoseeiftheresachangeintimetoseeifthesitesareremainingthesameorget-tingbetterorgettingworseLangesaid.ThestudyemergedoutofcommunityconcernsinFortMcPhersonwherelanduserscomplainedthatthehillsintheplateauregionwerestartingtolookmessy.ResearchersworkedcloselywiththeGwichinTribalCouncilTetlitGwichinRe-newableResourceCouncilandGwichinRenewableResourceBoardaswellascommunitymembersonthestudy.AlsoinvolvedwerethedepartmentofFisheriesandOceansandtheCanadianCentreforRemoteSensing.Ithinktheconcernrstemergedfromlandscapechangesbutthentheques-tionofsowhatemergedlikewhatdoesthatmeanSobasicallywestartedlookingatinvertebratesbecausetheyreagoodindicatorofecosys-temhealth.Theyrecertainlysomethingthatshfeedonsoitgivesanindicationofhowthesystemasawholeisfunc-tioningLangesaid.FurtherresearchonfishhealthinthePeelsystemin-corporatingdatafromthisandotherstudiesintheareainvolv-ingimpactsofpermafrostisalsobeingdonebyscientistsfromWilfridLaurierUniver-sitywithfundingfromCIMP.CIMPwasfoundedin1999withthepurposeofcollectinganalyzingandmakinginfor-mationfromenvironmentalmonitoringeffortsavailabletoNorthernersdecisionmak-ersandindustryupanddowntheMackenzieValley.Theprogramhasfundedapproxi-mately250projectssinceitsinception.TwoeldteammembershiketowardasamplesiteintheStonyCreekwatershedofthePeelPlateauwhereastreamisbeingdisturbedbyanactivepermafrostslump.PhotocourtesyofAANDC