Paleohydrology and Paleoecology of the Slave River Delta
Principal Investigator: Wolfe, Brent BBW (8)
Licence Number: 13953
Organization: Wilfrid Laurier University
Licenced Year(s): 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Issued: Mar 30, 2006
Project Team: Tom Edwards (Co-Investigator, University of Waterloo), John Johnston (Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Waterloo), Bronwyn Brock (Graduate Student, University of Waterloo), Mike Sokal (Graduate Student, University of Waterloo), Tracy Barkhouse (Undergraduate Student, Wilfrid Laurier University)

Project Description: This research program focuses on high-resolution reconstruction of past hydrology, ecology and climate of the Peace-Athabasca (PAD) and Slave River deltas (SRD) from natural archives, including lake sediments and tree rings, supported by comprehensive field-based studies of modern hydrology, limnology and aquatic ecology. The PAD and SRD have broad ecological and cultural significance and are ecosystems highly sensitive to prevailing climatic and hydrological conditions. Changing delta lake levels impact aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, wildlife habitat, and First Nations communities who have an historical connection with the PAD and SRD and its resources. The aim of this research is to improve knowledge of changes in lake water balance and chemistry and the subsequent responses of aquatic plants over seasonal and inter-annual time-scales under varying climatic and hydrological conditions. Overall, this information is critical for 1) establishing the range of modern hydrological and ecological conditions that currently exists in the delta, 2) testing and refining hypotheses on relationships between lake water balance, chemistry and aquatic plants, and 3) interpreting lake sediment records obtained from the delta. Knowledge of present and past hydroecological and climatic variability is also vital for effective multi-stakeholder environmental stewardship of the PAD and SRD in light of multiple stressors that may affect these internationally recognized northern ecosystems.

This year, fieldwork will concentrate on obtaining longer sediment cores to establish a temporal context for research spanning the past several hundred years, which is a timeframe that encompasses a broad range of climatic conditions relevant to the current regime and projected future scenarios. To this end, a vibra-corer will be used to obtain lake sediment records from six basins in the SRD spanning a broad hydrological continuum with respect to the role of the Slave River in basin water balance. Equipment will be transported by helicopter to field sampling sites. At the end of the fieldwork, multi-proxy analyses will be conducted on the vibra-cores (e.g., C,N,O elemental and stable isotope geochemistry, diatoms, plant macrofossils, magnetic susceptibility, grain size). Results will be communicated by presentation to the Fort Resolution Environmental Working Committee and other interested members of the community during subsequent field visits.
Field sampling will take place in the Slave River Delta (61°N 133°W), near Fort Resolution, from April 1-15, 2006.