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Impacts of climate and river flooding on the hydro-ecology of a floodplain basin, Peace-Athabasca Delta, Canada since A.D. 1700

  • Brent B. Wolfe (a1) (a2), Tammy L. Karst-Riddoch (a3), Sheila R. Vardy (a2), Matthew D. Falcone (a2), Roland I. Hall (a3) and Thomas W.D. Edwards (a2)...
Abstract
Abstract

Multi-proxy paleolimnological analyses on lake sediment cores from "Spruce Island Lake" (58° 50.82′ N, 111° 28.84′ W), a perched basin in the northern Peace sector of the Peace-Athabasca Delta (PAD), Canada, give insights into the relative roles of flow regulation of the Peace River and climatic variability on the basin hydro-ecology. Results indicate substantial variability in basin hydro-ecology over the past 300 years ranging from seasonal to periodic desiccation in the 1700s to markedly wetter conditions during the early 1800s to early 1900s. The reconstruction is consistent with (1) dry climatic conditions that defined the peak of the Little Ice Age and subsequent amelioration evident in conventional ring-width and isotopic analyses of tree-ring records located hydrologically and climatically upstream of the PAD, and (2) Peace River flood history inferred from sub-annual magnetic susceptibility measurements from another lake sediment record in the Peace sector of the PAD. Although regulation of the Peace River for hydroelectric power generation since 1968 has long been considered a major stressor of the PAD ecosystem leading to reduced frequency of ice-jam and open-water flooding and an extended period of drying, our results show that current hydro-ecological status is not unprecedented as both wetter and drier conditions have persisted for decades in the recent past under natural climatic variability. Furthermore, paleolimnological evidence from Spruce Island Lake indicates that recently observed dryness is part of a longer trend which began some 20�"40 years prior to Peace River regulation.

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*Corresponding author. Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Avenue West, Waterloo ON, Canada N2L 3C5. Fax: +1 519 725 1342. E-mail address:bwolfe@wlu.ca (B.B. Wolfe).
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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
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