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Five Lakes

A fisheries and water quality survey of ten lakes in the Richardson Tower area northeastern Alberta. Volume I: Methodology summary and discussion

Author(s): Ash, G. R., & Noton L. R.

Year: 1980

A fisheries and water quality survey was conducted in September 1979 on 10 small lakes (67.4 to 338.9 ha) in the vicinity of Richardson Tower, approximately 140 km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The major objectives were: (1) to determine morphometric and water quality characteristics in relation to habitat requirements for indigenous and possible introduced species of fish; (2) to assess potential fish yield; and (3) to determine the susceptibility of the lakes to acidification. Maximum lake depth ranged from 6 to 16 m; mean depth varied from 1.9 to 8.0 m. Morphoedaphic indices varied from 16.7 to 54.3. Water quality was fairly uniform with moderate concentrations of dissolved sol ids total filterable residue slightly above 100 mg/L), calcium and bicarbonate at the major ions, and low phosphorus levels. Waters were clear, largely unstained, and generally well oxygenated. Water quality in most lakes was highly suitable for fish production. Ten species of fish were recorded. All lakes supported northern pike while only five contained walleye. Lake whitefish was present in all but one lake. Yellow perch, although recorded in seven of the lakes, were slow growing and small in size. Estimates of potential fish yield varied from 4.8 to 6.5 kg/ha/yr to 8.2 to 10.9 kg/ha/yr. Mean total alkalinity of the study lakes was 77 mg/L (1.53 meq/L). Although terrestrial buffering responses were uncertain, it appeared that lakes are not highly susceptible to acidification (i.e., at precipitation acidities foreseeable for the study area).

Assessing hydrological processes controlling the water balance of lakes in the Peace-Athabasca Delta, Alberta, Canada using water isotope tracers

Author(s): Matthew, F.

Year: 2007

One of the world's largest freshwater deltas (∼4000 km2 ), the Peace-Athabasca Delta (PAD), is located at the convergence of the Peace and Athabasca rivers and Lake Athabasca in northern Alberta, Canada. Since the early 1970s, there has been increasing concern regarding the ecological impacts on the PAD after flow regulation of the Peace River began in 1968, decreased discharge in the Peace and Athabasca rivers as a result of hydroclimatic changes in Western Canada, and increased Athabasca River water usage by oil sands development to the south. This thesis is part of an ongoing, multi-disciplinary project assessing current and past hydrological and ecological conditions in the PAD. Research conducted in this thesis aims to better understand the processes controlling water balance of lakes in the PAD using mainly stable water isotope data collected from lakes and their input sources. Isotope data are used to describe and quantify hydrological processes for individual lakes (seasonal and annual) and across the delta and are supported by other chemical and hydrometric data. An isotopic framework in δ18 O-δ2 H-space is developed for the PAD using evaporation-flux-weighted local climate data, and isotopic data collected from a reference basin, lakes throughout the PAD, and lake input sources (i.e., snowmelt, rainfall, and river water). The framework is comprised of two reference lines, the Local Meteoric Water Line, which is based on measured isotopic composition of precipitation, and the Local Evaporation Line, which is based on modelled isotopic composition of reference points. Evaporation pan data is used to assess short-term variations in key isotopic reference values, which are important for addressing short-term changes in the isotopic signature of shallow basins. This framework is used in subsequent chapters including assessment of seasonal and annual water balance of two hydrologically-contrasting shallow lakes, and to quantify the impacts of flood water and snowmelt on a set of 45 lakes in spring 2003. Five years of isotope data using time-series analysis and the isotopic framework suggested that a perched (isolated) lake and its catchment (forest and bedrock) in the northern, relict Peace sector captured sufficient rain, snow, and runoff to maintain a relatively stable water balance, and also that a low-lying lake in the southern, active Athabasca sector was regularly replenished with river water in both spring and summer. Snowmelt and rainfall were found to have diluted the perched basin by an average of 16% and 28% respectively, while spring and summer floods were found to almost completely flush the low-lying lake. Using the spring 2003 regional dataset, flooded lakes were separated from snowmelt-dominated lakes through use of suspended sediment concentrations, isotope data, and field observations. Application of an isotope mixing model translated δ18 O values into a range of replenishment amount by either river water or snowmelt, which compared well with hydrological conditions at the time of sampling and previously classified drainage types of the lakes. Spatial mapping of replenishment amounts illustrated flooding of much of the Athabasca sector due to ice-jams, except for two subregions isolated from flooding by artificial and natural northern diversion of flow from the Athabasca River. It is also shown that most of the relict landscape of the Peace sector was replenished by snowmelt except for a few low-lying lakes close to the Peace River and its tributaries. Overall, improved understanding of lake and regional hydrology in the PAD, especially the ability to quantify the affects of various lake inputs, will improve the ability to develop effective guidelines and management practices in the PAD as lakes respond to future changes in climate and river discharge.

Depositional history of sediment in Great Slave Lake: spatial and temporal patterns in geochronology, bulk parameters, PAHs and chlorinated contaminants

Year: 1996

This report presents the results of August 1993 and March 1994 sediment studies in the West Basin of Great Slave Lake. In August 1993, a series of 10 surficial sediment samples were collected in the vicinity of the Slave River mouth. PCB was the predominant organochlorine (OC) compound detected followed by chlorobenzene, total DDT, HCH, and dieldrin. Concentrations were low and comparable to values reported for other subarctic and arctic lakes. There was no apparent pattern in the distribution of these compounds relative to the Slave River outflow. PAHs were very abundant and were dominated by benzo(g,h,i)perylene, benzo(e)pyrene, and phenathrene: concentrations were slightly higher offshore the river mouth than elsewhere. PCDD and PCDF concentrations were exceedingly low. PCDDs were dominated by DiCDD and OCDD while PCDFs were dominated by DiCDF and TriCDF. The presence of the lower chlorinated forms may be suggestive of a pulp and paper mill influence. Similarly the presence of pentachloroanisole, trichloroveratrole, and tetrachloroveratrole may be suggestive of a pulp and paper mill influence. Two cores were collected in August 1993 on the shelf region immediately west of the Slave River. Station depths were less than 30 m. Both cores were in areas of high erosion and could not be assigned meaningful dates. In March 1994, a series of sediment cores was collected at five sites (Sites 12, 13, 16, 19, and 23) in the West Basin, to the west of the August 1993 surficial sediment and coring studies. A single core from each site was dated at the Freshwater Institute and two additional cores (one each from Sites 13 and 19) were dated at the National Water Research Institute. Cores from four of the sites were in depositional areas while the core collected offshore of the Slave River mouth (Site 23) was in an erosional area. However, sufficient sediment deposition had occurred at this site for the core to be dated. The two cores examined from Site 13, in the central region of the West Basin, gave similar dating estimates. However, the two cores examined from Site 19, further to the east, gave somewhat different estimates from each other. These two cores were collected in a less physically-stable region of the lake with some evidence of postdepositional erosion of older material on top of newer sediments. The core from Site 23 was in the least stable region o f the five sites examined. Sedimentation rate estimates were similar to those for Lake Athabasca and Lakes Ontario and Erie. They were higher than estimates for subarctic and arctic lakes and for Lake Superior. Based on estimates of the suspended sediment loading to Great Slave Lake, we conclude that our cores were not collected in the high-sedimentation regions of Great Slave Lake. The greatest sedimentation may occur offshore of the Slave River mouth. Analysis of cores collected in March 1995 should allow us to confirm this hypothesis. Two cores (Cores 12B and 19B) were analyzed for organochlorine compounds. Concentrations of OCs in Core 12B, collected offshore of Hay River, were relatively high and require verification. Thus, these data are not presented in this report. For Core 19B, there was some evidence of increasing PCB, chlorobenzene, and HCH concentrations over the 1949 - 1994 period investigated. Dieldrin showed a weaker time trend. Based on the analysis of sediment trap material collected in August 1994, we conclude that the Slave River is a significant source of organochlorine compounds to Great Slave Lake. Cores from Sites 12 and 19 were analyzed for PAHs. Although the same number of slices were examined for both cores, slices from Core 12B did not extend as far back in time: thus, the PAH record has not been determined for Core 12B prior to the mid 1960s. Both cores were dominated by naphthalene, 1-methylnaphthalene, and 2-methylnaphthalene suggesting a petrogenic source. Concentrations were higher at Site 19, closer to the Slave River, than Site 12. There was strong evidence that concentrations of these compounds increased since the 1960s suggesting an additional anthropogenic source of these PAHs: temporal patterns of increase differed for Core 12B and Core 19B. Fluorene, phenanthrene, anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene, and chrysene all occurred in higher concentrations in Core 12B than Core 19B. Concentrations varied little over time for Core 19B but showed some evidence of higher concentrations in Core 12B for two periods - the late 1970s and the late 1980s. This is suggestive of a localized input, possibly from Hay River. Higher molecular weight PAHs occurred in similar concentrations in Cores 12B and 19B. There was a suggestion of slightly higher concentrations of these compounds in Core 12B during the late 1970s than earlier and later times. PCCDs and PCDFs concentrations were determined in Cores 19D and 23A. Concentrations of PCDDs were substantially higher during the 1950s through the 1970s than in more recent times. Temporal patterns of increase differed for Core 19D and Core 23A. PCDDs were dominated by HpCDDs and OCDDs with only low concentrations of the lower chlorinated forms being detected. Total PCDFs were less abundant than PCDDs: this is in notable contrast to the surficial samples where PCDDs and PCDFs occurred in similar concentrations to one another. PCDFs (primarily TriCDF and TCDF) showed some evidence of increasing concentrations since the 1950s for Core 23A while this trend was less apparent for Core 19D. These increases in PCDD and PCDF concentrations may be related to increased atmospheric sources and/or paper and pulp mill activities. There was some evidence of a pulp and paper mill signature in Core 19B with pentachloroanisole increasing in concentration from 1949 to the early 1980s and then declining somewhat thereafter: trichloroveratrole and tetrachloroveratrole occurred in low concentrations in the 1950s and in increasing concentrations thereafter. Total organic carbon (TOC) and total organic nitrogen (TON) concentrations were determined in Cores 13C and 19D. Concentrations of both compounds have increased since the early 1900s with the greatest increase occurring since the 1950s. Moreover, the increase was more pronounced in Core 13C than Core 19D. This suggests that the West Basin of Great Slave Lake has undergone a slight increase in productivity, possibly due to land clearing and increased anthropogenic development in the Peace and Athabasca River watersheds. Localized activities, occurring at the towns of Hay River and Yellowknife, may also have been important. While Great Slave Lake is essentially a pristine system, it does show signs of recent anthropogenic contamination. A significant fraction of OCs, PAHs, PCCDs, and PCDFs probably entered the West Basin of Great Slave Lake with Slave River inflow. However, the primaiy source of these compounds is less certain, e.g., localized inputs from industries along the Peace and Athabasca Rivers and/or atmospheric deposition (wet and dry) over the broader watershed with the eventual transport of these compounds into the Peace, Athabasca, and Slave rivers and then into Great Slave Lake.

Distribution and relative abundance of the shortjaw cisco (Coregonus zenithicus) in Alberta

Author(s): Steinhilber, M., & Rhude L.

Year: 2001

Barrow Lake, located about 60 km north of Fort Chipewyan, contains the only verified population of shortjaw cisco in Alberta. A specific search for shortjaw cisco in the area around Barrow Lake was undertaken in an effort to gather additional information on its extent of occurrence in Alberta. Eight lakes in the region north of Lake Athabasca and east of Wood Buffalo National Park were surveyed by gillnetting in July and August 2000. No new populations of shortjaw cisco were found at these sites. Seven other nearby lakes had been sampled in 1996 and 1997 with similar results. Catch-per-unit-effort data from Barrow Lake suggest that this population of shortjaw cisco appears to have been stable over at least the past five years and probably the last 30 years. However, further monitoring is required to determine population trends with a scientifically acceptable level of confidence.

Double-crested cormorant diet on boreal lakes: Implications for food web structure and fisheries management

Author(s): Earle, S. N.

Year: 2007

In lake ecosystems, knowledge of the direct and indirect effects of apex predators and piscivory is essential to managing fisheries and maintaining water quality. To determine if population increases of the double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritics ) on boreal lakes are influencing food web structure and function via top-down effects, I used a combination of conventional diet and stable isotope analyses. Analysis of regurgitation samples collected from five colonies in the Lac La Biche area of north-central Alberta during 2003 and 2004 identified 13 different prey species in cormorant diets. The majority of fish consumed were small in size, less than 1.00 mm in length. Yellow perch was the most frequently captured species on all colonies and also comprised the largest proportion of biomass in regurgitation samples. Based on isotopic signatures and diet composition, birds nesting on small lakes were found to forage on the local nesting lake as well as on Lac La Biche; however, foraging appeared to be focused primarily on Lac La Biche. In large lakes, such as Lac La Biche, isotopic ratios of carbon and nitrogen yielded similar trophic levels for double-crested cormorants and predatory fish: walleye and northern pike.

NOGAP Archaeology Project: An Integrated Archaeological Research and Management Approach

Year: 1991

Description of the NOGAP (Northern Oil and Gas Action Plan) Archaeology Project, set up to survey areas of potential oil and gas production in the Northwest Territories in terms of archaeological and cultural resources and sites. Five main locations are examined in detail: Yukon coastal plain and Herschel Island, Mackenzie Delta and adjacent uplands, Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula and Eskimo Lakes area, Horton River/lower Cape Bathurst Area, Lancaster Sound/south Devon Island.

Phylogeography and postglacial dispersal of two North American Salvelinus species

Author(s): Wilson, C. C.

Year: 1995

Although the profound impacts of Pleistocene glaciations on the North American aquatic fauna are indisputable, reconstructions of postglacial recolonization are extremely difficult due to the complexity of habitat alterations and glacial retreat. This study examines patterns of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) diversity in lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) to assess their phylogeographic structure and postglacial dispersal. Phylogeographic results for both species contrasted with literature predictions, but were concordant with dispersal scenarios based on glaciochronology and species ecology. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of mtDNA revealed five distinct refugial groups of S. namaycush that diverged 100,000-800,000 years ago. Screening of 123 populations showed that fish from two Beringian refugia colonized much of arctic and western Canada and dispersed as far east as western Quebec. Mississippian fish dispersed throughout central Canada, while eastern North America was recolonized from an Atlantic source. Fish from a fifth refuge are largely limited to Montana and southern Alberta. Refugial groups showed extensive secondary contact within margins of former proglacial lakes, producing high levels of nucleotide diversity for mixed-source populations. Geographic distance and genetic divergence among refugial groups were not correlated, contrasting with patterns for southern fish species. RFLP analysis of North American S. alpinus mtDNA revealed three major lineages with differing geographic distributions. Screening of 54 populations showed that two lineages that diverged 120,000-250,000 years ago in separate Atlantic refugia showed clinal distributions along the Atlantic coast. By contrast, northern Alaska and arctic Canada were colonized by Beringian fish, which diverged from eastern populations one to two million years ago. In contrast to lake trout, secondary contact among arctic charr lineages was extremely limited. Combined morphometric, allozyme, and RFLP analyses also documented widespread hybridization between S. namaycush and S. alpinus across the Canadian arctic. Hybridization was strongly asymmetrical, with 87% of $\rm F\sb1$ hybrids resulting from crosses between female S. namaycush and male S. alpinus. Detailed examination of two populations containing hybrids revealed low levels of bidirectional nuclear introgression between the species but only limited transfer of S. namaycush mtDNA into S. alpinus.

Spatial and temporal variations in fire frequency in the boreal forest of northern Alberta

Author(s): Larsen, C. P. S.

Year: 1995

Forest fires occur frequently in the boreal forest of North America and greatly affect vegetation dynamics, biogeochemical cycles and resident human populations. Estimates of the frequency of boreal forest fires would be useful for understanding boreal ecosystems and managing that affects of fires on human populations. The objectives of this work were to investigate relations between fire frequency and climate change, vegtitation type and waterbreaks in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), located in northern Alberta. To address these objectives, four hypotheses were tested: (1) tree ring-width records from the boreal forest can provide a proxy climate record: (2) annual area burned in the boreal forest varies in response to climate changes: (3) boreal forest fire frequency varies with differences in forest type and the proximity to waterbreaks; and (4) fossil pollen and macroscopic charcoal records from massive lake sediments can provide meaningful estimates of local fire frequency. The first hypothesis was tested by constructing tree ring chronologies from 3 white spruce and two jack pine sites in WBNP. All five chronologies were significantly positively correlated with June precipitation in the growth year or the previous year, and were significantly negatively correlated with historical records of fire weather and annual area burned. The second hypothesis was tested by analyzing historical records of annual area burned and climate, and tree ring records of fire history and climate. Annual area burned was significantly negatively correlated with seasonal means of fire weather indices. The time since last fire was estimated using tree ring records from 166 sites located throughout WBNP. These records exhibited decadal and centennial scale variations in fire frequency. Comparisons with tree ring other proxy climate records suggest that these variations are related to climatic changes. The third hypothesis was tested using survival analysis of the time since last fire records, disagregated by dominant vegetation and the mean distance to waterbreaks. Sites dominated by jack pine (Pinus banksiana) and aspen (Populus tremuloides) exhibited significantly higher fire frequencies than did sites dominated by black spruce (Picea mariana) or white spruce (Picea glauca). Fire frequency increased with increased mean distance to waterbreaks. The fourth hypothesis was tested by analyzing fossil pollen and charcoal records from two lakes at $\sim$5 year resolution for 600 years. I compared their fire history records with local tree ring records of fire, and their mean fire intervals with regional fire frequency estimates for sites with similar vegetation and mean distances to waterbreaks. One lake exhibited a meaningful fire frequency estimate and the other lake did not. The poor fire frequency estimate was related to high sediment mixing and the lack of homogenous vegetation around the lake. The results indicate that: (1) area burned and fire frequency in the boreal forest of northern Alberta varies temporally at the annual, decadal and centennial scales; (2) fire frequency varies spatially in relation to vegetation type and mean waterbreak distance; and (3) lakes with massive sediments can provide meaningful estimates of local fire frequency.

Species distribution and habitat relationships of waterfowl in northeastern Alberta

Author(s): Hennan, E., & Munson B.

Year: 1979

The objective of the waterfowl segment of the AOSERP/Avifauna program consisted of determining waterfowl species abundance and diversity and habitat associations. During waterfowl aerial surveys the length of wetland edge surveyed in 1976 ranged from 373 to 453 km on 65± wetlands. Spring-staging totals for two surveys for this year were 1000 and 3600 ducks. Breeding-pair totals for three surveys ranged from 540 to 870. Two brood surveys revealed 225 and 463 broods; 3590 and 9318 moulting ducks were counted coincidentally. Five fall-staging surveys revealed a total of from 11 000 to 24 000 ducks. Aerial surveys conducted in 1977 were reduced in number and scope with less than half the number of wetlands surveyed in six surveys. Oil sands wetlands were more heavily utilized by diving than dabbling ducks. Analysis of variance for edge type/habitat next-to-edge combinations for diving and dabbling ducks revealed significant associations for both groups of ducks for breeding pairs: dabblers preferred emergent vegetation edge combined with a shrub habitat next-to-edge. Divers preferred, with decreasing preference: emergent vegetation/shrub, wet meadow/coniferous forest, emergent vegetation/wet meadow, and emergent vegetation/mixed forest. Analysis of spring-staging flocks of both dabblers and divers revealed some preferred habitat associations but those did not prove significant. Brood and moulter data showed no significant habitat relationships. Fall-staging divers exhibited significant relationships preferring: open water, shrub/shrub, flooded trees/mixed forest, emergent vegetation/shrub, and shrub/mixed forest. Fall-staging dabblers exhibited habitat preferences but these were not significant. The preferred wetlands types, in descending order, were: lakes with shallow-marsh aquatics, lakes with deep-marsh aquatics, open lakes, creeks, and rivers. The significance of individual wetlands in terms of duck numbers and densities varied throughout the season. However, certain wetlands appeared consistently important: Little McClelland Lake, West Muskeg Lake, Wood Slough, Gordon Lake, Saline Lake, and Algar Lake.

The role of landscape factors, predation, and demography in the ecology of anurans in boreal Alberta

Author(s): Eaton, B. R.

Year: 2004

I examined basic anuran biology, and responses to habitat disturbance and predators, in Alberta, concentrating on the province's boreal mixedwood ecoregion. Using landscape data for a 504 km2 area, I found that loss of small wetlands increased the distance between remaining water bodies, potentially exceeding the movement capabilities of most wood frogs (Rana sylvatica ). Using movement cost maps derived from slope, habitat, and moisture data, I found that most upland portions of the study area were potentially appropriate for wood frog use and travel. I used fish and anuran abundance estimates from 12 lakes over five years to examine relationships between these groups. Severe fish winterkills were often followed by large anuran recruitment events; young-of-the-year wood frog abundance was related most strongly to changes in abundance of small-bodied fish species, whereas toad (western, Bufo boreas , and Canadian, B. hemiophrys ) abundance was related to changes in populations of large-bodied fish species. I ran whole-pond experiments over 2 years to examine interactions between anuran larvae and small-bodied fish species. Wood frog larval activity and survival to metamorphosis were dramatically reduced in the presence of fathead minnow ( Pimephales promelas ) and brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans ); western toad larvae were unaffected by fish presence. Growth rates, longevity, and size at age of anurans often vary across latitude. Using skeletochronology, I examined these parameters for Canadian toads at four sites in three ecoregions across an 850 km latitudinal gradient from Brooks to Fort McMurray, Alberta. I also examined variation in age and size structure across three sites at a local scale. Growth rate, adjusted for length of active season, was higher at the two northern sites. Growth rates were similar at three boreal sites that were within 10 km of each other, but size structure of toad populations at these sites varied. Longevity varied from seven to 12 years across sites. Results of my research on the ecology of northern anuran populations can be used in conservation efforts focused on these species in western Canada.