Research December 7, 2015
In the third part of our series looking into IISD-ELA and climate change, we take a look at the effect of climate change on water clarity and learn lakes are getting darker. Here we explore why that is happening and why it matters.
Figure 1. Long-term patterns in water clarity (Secchi depth in metres) and DOC (mg/L) in Lake 239 of IISD-ELA.
IISD-ELA is located in the boreal forest, which represents the largest ecozone on the planet, covering 11 per cent of the planet’s total surface. Within Canada, the boreal forest dominates the landscape, covering 53 per cent of the total land surface. The boreal forest and aquatic systems play a large role in the global carbon budget.
However, the boreal ecozone is changing. A history of more intensive land use, industrial development, electricity generation and resource extraction alter the natural balance in minor and major ways. Most importantly, a changing climate affects water, land and life. Responsible use of our natural resources requires a scientifically rigorous understanding of these systems and how they are changing. Fortunately Canada’s premier freshwater research station has a front row seat and a history of monitoring parameters that can tell us how the world’s northern forests and freshwater lakes are affected by these changes. IISD-ELA brings a 47 year (1969–present) history of monitoring climate, water quality and fisheries in a unique whole-ecosystem laboratory setting. Now, as a part of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, we have the opportunity to use the long-term monitoring dataset of IISD-ELA to examine how climate change is affecting boreal forests, wetlands and lakes from a consistent, long-term, whole-ecosystem dataset of significant scientific and societal value.
As the world’s eyes are focused on the Paris Climate Change Conference, we wanted to take this opportunity to present some of our major climate change research findings to you, so you can see the data for yourself and understand how climate change is affecting our lakes.