Sentinel responses of Arctic freshwater systems to climate: linkages, evidence, and a roadmap for future research

15 February 2022

While the sentinel nature of freshwater systems is now well recognized, widespread integration of freshwater processes and patterns into our understanding of broader climate-driven Arctic terrestrial ecosystem change has been slow. We review the current understanding across Arctic freshwater systems of key sentinel responses to climate, which are attributes of these systems with demonstrated and sensitive responses to climate forcing. These include ice regimes, temperature and thermal structure, river baseflow, lake area and water level, permafrost-derived dissolved ions and nutrients, carbon mobilization (dissolved organic carbon, greenhouse gases, and radiocarbon), dissolved oxygen concentrations, lake trophic state, various aquatic organisms and their traits, and invasive species. For each sentinel, our objectives are to clarify linkages to climate, describe key insights already gained, and provide suggestions for future research based on current knowledge gaps. We suggest that tracking key responses in Arctic freshwater systems will expand understanding of the breadth and depth of climate-driven Arctic ecosystem changes, provide early indicators of looming, broader changes across the landscape, and improve protection of freshwater biodiversity and resources.

Jasmine E. Saros, Christopher D. Arp, Frédéric Bouchard, Jérôme Comte, Raoul-Marie Couture, Joshua F. Dean, Melissa Lafrenière, Sally MacIntyre, Suzanne McGowan, Milla Rautio, Clay Prater, Suzanne E. Tank, Michelle Walvoord, Kimberly P. Wickland, Dermot Antoniades, Paola Ayala-Borda, Joao Canario, Travis W. Drake, Diogo Folhas, Václava Hazuková, Henriikka Kivilä, Yohanna Klanten, Scott Lamoureux, Isabelle Laurion, Rachel M. Pilla, Jorien E. Vonk, Scott Zolkos, and Warwick F. Vincent. 2023. Sentinel responses of Arctic freshwater systems to climate: linkages, evidence, and a roadmap for future research. Arctic Science. 9(2): 356-392.