Effects of Changes in Arctic Lake and River Ice

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Climatic changes to freshwater ice in the Arctic are projected to produce a variety of effects on hydrologic, ecological, and socio-economic systems. Key hydrologic impacts include changes to low flows, lake evaporation regimes and water levels, and river-ice break-up severity and timing. The latter are of particular concern because of their effect on river geomorphology, vegetation, sediment and nutrient fluxes, and sustainment of riparian aquatic habitats. Changes in ice phenology will affect a wide range of related biological aspects of seasonality. Some changes are likely to be gradual, but others could be more abrupt as systems cross critical ecological thresholds. Transportation and hydroelectric production are two of the socio-economic sectors most vulnerable to change in freshwater-ice regimes. Ice roads will require expensive on-land replacements while hydroelectric operations will both benefit and be challenged. The ability to undertake some traditional harvesting methods will also be affected.


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