Insights into mountain wetland resilience to climate change: An evaluation of the hydrological processes contributing to the hydrodynamics of alpine wetlands in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
Mercer, Jason Joel 1983-
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Hydrological conditions play an important role in provisioning the exceptionally valuable ecosystem services and functions of wetlands. In alpine areas, wetland functions and services are expected to be very sensitive to climate-mediated changes in hydrology. However, few field studies of alpine wetland hydrology currently exist, thus limiting understanding of how wetlands will respond to warming and drying, and how their ecosystem services and functions will change. This study examines key processes contributing to the hydrological stability of alpine wetlands in Banff National Park, AB, Canada. During the two-year study, snowmelt timing differed by over three weeks, allowing for the examination of water table patterns under comparatively wet and dry conditions. Contrary to expectations, water table positions were relatively stable in each study year, particularly in the peat-bearing soils. Hydrophysical and hydrochemical data together provide evidence that the observed stability is in part due to groundwater contributions, which made up as much as 53% of the water budget in one peatland. Soil conditions also appear to play a role in stabilizing water table regimes. The results suggest that alpine wetlands, and peatlands in particular, may be more resilient to changes in climate than currently thought. Mineral wetlands, comparatively, may have limited adaptive capacity.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentGeography and Planning
CommitteeBedard-Haughn, Angela; Pomeroy, John; Whittington, Peter
Copyright DateMay 2018