The North Slope coastal plain represents a unique landscape that is characterized by permafrost and an immense number of freshwater lakes of varying sizes and depths. These lakes provide habitat for fish and wildlife species, support subsistence resources for use by local populations, and serve as freshwater supply for industrial development. The ability of resource managers to effectively balance these uses depends on our understanding of the capacity of these lakes to serve as water storage and as well as our understanding of their function as habitat.
During winter, lakes on the coastal plain typically freeze to a depth of about 1.6-2.2m, with deeper lakes retaining liquid water. The identification of deep lakes that contain unfrozen water can help define critical fish overwintering habitat. A variety of anadromous and resident fish species, including sticklebacks, salmonid, whitefish and blackfish overwinter in lakes on the coastal plain. These fish are important subsistence resources as well as important forage fish for migratory bird species such as the yellow-billed loon (YBL, Gavia adamsii).
The primary result of this project is a GIS vector dataset (shapefile) that identifies areas of winter liquid water availability within lakes throughout the North Slope coastal plain. This data set represents a one-time “snapshot” of winter liquid water availability as determined through the analysis of 36 SAR images that were acquired during April 2009. In addition the project final report and technical background documents are provided.
Work under this project is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) with support from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, North Slope Science Iniative (NSSI) and Michigan Technical Research Institute (MTRI).
Final products for this project that can be downloaded from the North Slope Science Catalog include:
Final Report: This report provides a review of literature and documents the materials, methods and results of this project.
Technical Report: These reports provide a time series investigation of North Slope lakes within a small pilot study area to illustrate the observed changes in ERS-2 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) response and lake condition over time. An investigation of PALSAR radar dynamics for two example lakes is also provided. A review of the mechanisms of radar backscatter and modeling is also compiled in another report.
GIS Shapefiles:Two shapefiles and documentation are included in this data release. One shapefile (NSLakes.shp) provides perimeters for all lakes that were considered in this analysis. Lake perimeters were taken from the USGS National Hydrology Dataset (NHD). Another shapefile (NSLake_unf.shp) provides the areas within those lakes that were classified as containing liquid water below ice.