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Climate Change, Flow Regulation and Land-Use Effects on the Hydrology of the Peace-Athabasca-Slave System; Findings from the Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative

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The Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative (NREI) was established in the late 1990s to address important science questions resulting from previous studies undertaken by the Northern Rivers Basin Study (NRBS). This manuscript summarizes the results from a number of reports on hydrologic research conducted on the Peace-Athabasca-Slave river and lake systems. Specific concerns expressed by the NRBS and subsequent NREI focused on how these systems were being affected by climate change, flow regulation and land-use changes. Issues addressed in this report include: the fate of aquatic perched basins within the Peace-Athabasca Delta under historical and future climate trends; the sources of major floods that replenish these basins and how the frequency, magnitude and source areas of such events have changed over time; the synoptic weather patterns and atmospheric teleconnections that are responsible for the generation of major snowmelt runoff that drive major floods; the potential effect that climate and land-use changes might have on basin runoff and delta lake levels; the specific hydro-climatic conditions required to produce major ice-jam floods on the Peace River and how these may be altered by climate change; remote-sensing methods to document delta flooding and vegetation change; and the dual effect of climate and flow regulation on the water levels of Great Slave Lake and how these may affect other nearshore processes, particularly wind seiches, that influence flooding of the Slave River Delta. A review of the major findings and recommendations for future research concludes the report.

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