Freshwater ecosystems are widespread across permafrost environments and play a crucial role in the development of northern communities. They can also have a significant impact on the global carbon cycle by remobilizing organic carbon formerly trapped in the frozen soil, resulting in greenhouse gas (CO2, CH4) emissions from ponds and lakes.
Considering the large quantities of carbon stored in permafrost, northern periglacial landscapes can be considered as global biogeochemical ‘hotspots’. Moreover, lacustrine basins are natural ‘collectors’ of environmental information from the water column and the surrounding landscapes. Their physical, chemical, and biological properties reflect a variety of information-rich signals that are ultimately integrated and recorded in the sediments. Lake deposits and the surrounding basins can thus act as sensitive barometers – or sentinels – of global environmental change.
The central theme of this talk will be to bring a ‘Canadian perspective’ on northern aquatic landscapes and their role as sentinels and regulators of large-scale biogeochemical and environmental changes. Ongoing and future research projects focussing on (paleo)limnology, geomorphology, and biogeochemistry, will be presented. We will travel across the Nunavut Territory – from Bylot Island, a dynamic biological refugee at the main entrance of the Northwest Passage, to Ward Hunt Island, a polar desert at the northern tip of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.