Castle Lake Projects

Terrestrial-Aquatic Linkages: Nutrient availability and transport in a small watershed as a function of bedrock geology, soil and ecosystem type

Project summary:

Understanding the mechanisms driving and connecting natural systems is critical in a world facing significant ecological impacts from climate change and anthropogenic influences. Nutrients transported from terrestrial to aquatic systems can either limit or enhance productivity. Understanding nutrient behavior and transport at the watershed scale, reveals the potential for environmental change to affect nutrient cycling and, consequently, biotic diversity, foodweb dynamics, and ecosystem productivity (Vitousek et al. 1997, Grimm et al. 2003). The purpose of my research is to assess macro- and micro-nutrient sources in the terrestrial area of a small sub-alpine watershed and to estimate nutrient input to a lake through measurements of soil and bedrock runoff, snowmelt, and rainfall. We hypothesize that soils and water quality reflect the composition of the surrounding geologic parent materials and that soil, soil solution, and surface runoff nutrient concentrations vary according to seasonal variations in climate and according to adjacent ecosystem type; upland forest, exposed bedrock, shrub, and alder areas. From these data, a nutrient budget based on current hydrologic (i.e., climatic) conditions can be developed and alterations to the overall system equilibrium resulting from climate change, forestry practices, atmospheric inputs, and/or other influences can be assessed.