Geography & Environment Publications

Physical and Chemical Limnology of a 61-lake Transect across Mainland Nunavut and Southeastern Victoria Island, Central Canadian Arctic

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Fundamental and Applied Limnology

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We describe the physical and chemical properties of sixty-one tundra lakes, sampled in a latitudinal transect (65-71°N, 105-108°W) across mainland and island regions of Nunavut, central Canadian Arctic, and examine the influence of geology, geography, climate, and vegetation on lake water chemistry. This dataset complements earlier limnological surveys of the Canadian Arctic and provides valuable information for evaluating the vulnerability of tundra lakes to predicted climate change. Principal components analysis revealed a geographical clustering of lakes; pH, DIC, specific conductivity, and trace metal concentrations reflected major lithological differences between the mainland and Victoria Island. Clustering of mainland lakes by ecoregion was also detected. Lakes of the Queen Maud Gulf Lowland and Garry Lake Lowland ecoregions (north) differed from lakes of the Takijuq Lake Upland ecoregion (south) in depth, pH, and specific conductivity as well as nutrient, DOC, and chlorophyll-a concentrations. Ionic composition of the northern mainland lakes also indicated that the influence of marine aerosols and/or leaching of residual marine salts from post-glacial marine deposits exposed by isostatic rebound. The northern mainland lakes were the most nutrient-rich and biologically productive of the three lake clusters and were characterized by median concentrations of total dissolved nitrogen (518 μg l−1) and chlorophyll-a (1.6 μg l−1) that were higher than previously reported for tundra lakes in the Canadian Arctic. These lakes were chemically similar to lakes of the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula, in the western Canadian Arctic. Lakes of the southern mainland were dilute, acidic, and nutrient-poor, in accord with earlier limnological surveys in this ecoregion. Concentrations of nutrients, DOC, and chlorophyll-a in Victoria Island lakes fell in the middle of the ranges reported from other islands in the Canadian Arctic. Lithologic and edaphic factors strongly influenced the limnological properties of the tundra lakes surveyed and must be controlled for in order to fully evaluate the influence of future climate and vegetation change.