- NSF-PAR ID:
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- Remote Sensing
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Beavers have established themselves as a key component of low arctic ecosystems over the past several decades. The data presented here document the occurrence, reconstruct the timing, and highlight the effects of beaver activity on a small creek valley confined by ice-rich permafrost on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska. We analyzed very high resolution satellite imagery to digitize beaver dams and stream channels from the years 2006, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2021. We also acquired Uncrewed Aircract System (UAS) imagery on 06 August 2021 and created a 5 centimeter (cm) resolution orthophoto mosaic and a 15 cm resolution digital surface model. Our data show that beaver engineering between 2006 and 2021 caused a systems-level response to a small tundra stream that promoted lateral expansion of the creek valley into an ice-rich permafrost hillslope and development of a diffuse network of stream channels expanding the area of potential beaver engineering in the future. The datasets support the findings presented in this accepted paper - Jones, B.M., K.D. Tape, J.A. Clark, A.C. Bondurant, M.K. Ward Jones, B.V. Gaglioti, C.D. Elder, C. Witharana, and C.E. Miller. Accepted. Multi-dimensional remote sensing analysis documents beaver-induced permafrost degradation, Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Remote Sensing.more » « less
Arctic landscapes are in a state of transition due to changes in climate occurring during both the summer and winter seasons. Scattered observations indicate that beavers (Castor canadensis) have moved from the forest into tundra areas during the last 20 years, likely in response to broader physical and ecosystem changes occurring in Arctic and Boreal regions. The implications of beaver inhabitation in the Arctic and Boreal are unique relative to other ecosystems due to the presence of permafrost and its vulnerability associated with beaver dams and inundation. Our study specifically examines the role of beavers in controlling surface water dynamics and related thermokarst development in low Arctic tundra regions. We mapped the number of beaver dams visible in sub-meter resolution satellite images acquired between 2002 and 2019 for a 100 square kilometer study area (12 years of imagery) near Kotzebue, Alaska and a 430 square kilometer study area (3 years of imagery) encompassing the entire northern Baldwin Peninsula, Alaska. We show that during the last two decades beaver-driven ecosystem engineering is responsible for the majority of surface water area changes and inferred thermokarst development in the study area. This has implications for interpreting surface water area changes and thermokarst dynamics in other Arctic and Boreal regions that may also result from beaver dam building activities. This geospatial dataset provides polygon vector files representing surface water area in a 100 square kilometer study area located near Kotzebue, Alaska. Surface water area maps were created using sub-meter resolution satellite imagery for the years 2002, 2007-2014, and 2017-2019. Image selection focused on cloud-free, ice-free, and calm surface water conditions with images being acquired between late-June and mid-August in a given year. All images were resampled to a spatial resolution of 70 centimeter to match the lowest resolution image in the time series prior to analysis. Within year image dates range from 25 June to 22 August with the average date of image acquisition being 17 July (table 1). Object-based image analysis was conducted in eCognition Essentials 1.3.more » « less
The 2015 spring flood of the Sagavanirktok River inundated large swaths of tundra as well as infrastructure near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Its lasting impact on permafrost, vegetation, and hydrology is unknown but compels attention in light of changing Arctic flood regimes. We combined InSAR and optical satellite observations to quantify subdecadal permafrost terrain changes and identify their controls. While the flood locally induced quasi‐instantaneous ice‐wedge melt, much larger areas were characterized by subtle, spatially variable post‐flood changes. Surface deformation from 2015 to 2019 estimated from ALOS‐2 and Sentinel‐1 InSAR varied substantially within and across terrain units, with greater subsidence on average in flooded locations. Subsidence exceeding 5 cm was locally observed in inundated ice‐rich units and also in inactive floodplains. Overall, subsidence increased with deposit age and thus ground ice content, but many flooded ice‐rich units remained stable, indicating variable drivers of deformation. On average, subsiding ice‐rich locations showed increases in observed greenness and wetness. Conversely, many ice‐poor floodplains greened without deforming. Ice wedge degradation in flooded locations with elevated subsidence was mostly of limited intensity, and the observed subsidence largely stopped within 2 years. Based on remote sensing and limited field observations, we propose that the disparate subdecadal changes were influenced by spatially variable drivers (e.g., sediment deposition, organic layer), controls (ground ice and its degree of protection), and feedback processes. Remote sensing helps quantify the heterogeneous interactions between permafrost, vegetation, and hydrology across permafrost‐affected fluvial landscapes. Interdisciplinary monitoring is needed to improve predictions of landscape dynamics and to constrain sediment, nutrient, and carbon budgets.
Increasing air temperatures are changing the arctic tundra biome. Permafrost is thawing, snow duration is decreasing, shrub vegetation is proliferating, and boreal wildlife is encroaching. Here we present evidence of the recent range expansion of North American beaver (
Castor canadensis) into the Arctic, and consider how this ecosystem engineer might reshape the landscape, biodiversity, and ecosystem processes. We developed a remote sensing approach that maps formation and disappearance of ponds associated with beaver activity. Since 1999, 56 new beaver pond complexes were identified, indicating that beavers are colonizing a predominantly tundra region (18,293 km2) of northwest Alaska. It is unclear how improved tundra stream habitat, population rebound following overtrapping for furs, or other factors are contributing to beaver range expansion. We discuss rates and likely routes of tundra beaver colonization, as well as effects on permafrost, stream ice regimes, and freshwater and riparian habitat. Beaver ponds and associated hydrologic changes are thawing permafrost. Pond formation increases winter water temperatures in the pond and downstream, likely creating new and more varied aquatic habitat, but specific biological implications are unknown. Beavers create dynamic wetlands and are agents of disturbance that may enhance ecosystem responses to warming in the Arctic.
Beaver engineering in the Arctic tundra induces hydrologic and geomorphic changes that are favorable to methane (CH4) production. Beaver-mediated methane emissions are driven by inundation of existing vegetation, conversion from lotic to lentic systems, accumulation of organic rich sediments, elevated water tables, anaerobic conditions, and thawing permafrost. Ground-based measurements of CH4emissions from beaver ponds in permafrost landscapes are scarce, but hyperspectral remote sensing data (AVIRIS-NG) permit mapping of ‘hotspots’ thought to represent locations of high CH4emission. We surveyed a 429.5 km2area in Northwestern Alaska using hyperspectral airborne imaging spectroscopy at ∼5 m pixel resolution (14.7 million observations) to examine spatial relationships between CH4hotspots and 118 beaver ponds. AVIRIS-NG CH4hotspots covered 0.539% (2.3 km2) of the study area, and were concentrated within 30 m of waterbodies. Comparing beaver ponds to all non-beaver waterbodies (including waterbodies >450 m from beaver-affected water), we found significantly greater CH4hotspot occurrences around beaver ponds, extending to a distance of 60 m. We found a 51% greater CH4hotspot occurrence ratio around beaver ponds relative to nearby non-beaver waterbodies. Dammed lake outlets showed no significant differences in CH4hotspot ratios compared to non-beaver lakes, likely due to little change in inundation extent. The enhancement in AVIRIS-NG CH4hotspots adjacent to beaver ponds is an example of a new disturbance regime, wrought by an ecosystem engineer, accelerating the effects of climate change in the Arctic. As beavers continue to expand into the Arctic and reshape lowland ecosystems, we expect continued wetland creation, permafrost thaw and alteration of the Arctic carbon cycle, as well as myriad physical and biological changes.