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Classification of freshwater ice conditions on the Alaskan Arctic Coastal Plain using ground penetrating radar and TerraSAR-X satellite data

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Arctic freshwater ecosystems have responded rapidly to climatic changes over the last half century. Lakes and rivers are experiencing a thinning of the seasonal ice cover, which may increase potential over-wintering freshwater habitat, winter water supply for industrial withdrawal, and permafrost degradation. Here, we combined the use of ground penetrating radar (GPR) and high-resolution (HR) spotlight TerraSAR-X (TSX) satellite data (1.25 m resolution) to identify and characterize floating ice and grounded ice conditions in lakes, ponds, beaded stream pools, and an alluvial river channel. Classified ice conditions from the GPR and the TSX data showed excellent agreement: 90.6% for a predominantly floating ice lake, 99.7% for a grounded ice lake, 79.0% for a beaded stream course, and 92.1% for the alluvial river channel. A GIS-based analysis of 890 surface water features larger than 0.01 ha showed that 42% of the total surface water area potentially provided over-wintering habitat during the 2012/2013 winter. Lakes accounted for 89% of this area, whereas the alluvial river channel accounted for 10% and ponds and beaded stream pools each accounted for <1%. Identification of smaller landscape features such as beaded stream pools may be important because of their distribution and role in connecting other water bodies on the landscape. These findings advance techniques for detecting and knowledge associated with potential winter habitat distribution for fish and invertebrates at the local scale in a region of the Arctic with increasing stressors related to climate and land use change.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Alaska Science Center, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK, 99508, USA 2: International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA 3: Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA 4: Gamma Remote Sensing, Gümligen, BE, Switzerland 5: Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA 6: Bureau of Land Management, Arctic Field Office, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA

Publication date: December 10, 2013

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