Headwater streams of the Kenai Lowlands have been shown to be important rearing habitats for juvenile salmonids, particularly Coho salmon and Dolly Varden. We have demonstrated through a series of studies that productivity in these headwaters is driven by linkages with surrounding landscape features, especially nitrogen from alders and carbon from peat wetlands. We tracked the influence of these nutrient inputs through riparian wetlands and stream food web. Changes to landscape elements such as alder, peatlands and riparian wetlands, due to climate variability and/or human uses, has the potential to significantly influence juvenile salmon rearing habitats. Consequentially, this could also affect downstream habitats.
This study aims to examine the downstream influence of productivity linked to headwaters on salmonid habitats, and non-game species. Sampling sites will be stratified across sites with upstream waters that have comparatively high nitrogen or high carbon, both nitrogen and carbon, or neither, as well as groundwater inputs. This project identifies 2nd and 3rd order streams throughout the Kenai Lowlands that are highly productive due to downstream effects of headwater stream productivity.
Funding for this project stems from Alaska’s Wildlife Action Plan, a program implemented by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The project began in Summer 2016. Refer to KBNERR’s Newsletters and Reports for updates on the project’s performance. Water samples are being analyzed by our collaborators at the Aquatic Ecology Lab at Baylor University.