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Past Projects

ACRC Project Archive

Since 2009, ACRC researchers have made noteworthy contributions to ecological, economic, and social research in the north Pacific coastal temperate rainforest. Learn more about our completed projects below, or visit the ACRC publications page for additional information.

Stream Discharge

ACRC worked with partners to develop storm event models to aid in infrastructure planning such as culvert design and hydropower development.

Stream dynamics in the dramatic topography of Southeast Alaska are expected to shift over time with changes in climate, but the resolution of most global climate models of future weather is too coarse to capture the spatial variation of this landscape. Resource managers and city planners need finer scale, more accurate models that predict changes in flow for small, ungaged watersheds. Understanding changes to streamflow are essential for infrastructure planning such as culvert replacement, bridge design, hydropower development, drinking water reservoir location identification, and floodplain restoration. Projections of peak flow are particularly important for culvert and bridge engineering, while seasonal variation and low flows may be more significant for hydropower and fish habitat restoration planning.

ACRC worked with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center and agency partners to create predictive stream discharge models for Southeast Alaska watersheds, and to deliver watershed-scale information in a user-friendly system. UAF postdoctoral researcher Rick Lader created fine-scale climate models for Southeast Alaska that can be incorporated into new discharge models being developed by ACRC collaborator David Hill at Oregon State University.

Yellow Cedar

ACRC investigated the ecological effects of yellow-cedar decline, and the market potential of dead tree stands to provide needed economic opportunities to local timber mills.

Yellow-cedar, one of the most culturally and economically important tree species of the northern PCTR, is in rapid decline across southeast Alaska due to climate change. As temperatures rise, the region is seeing decreases in the winter snowpack that insulates the shallow root system of these trees during late season freeze events. Yellow-cedar is a highly valued wood. Yellow-cedar trees have renowned decay-resistant properties, which is why they are widely used for carving and building. They can remain standing and retain their strength and integrity even decades after death. Salvage logging of dead yellow-cedar could be a valuable timber source for small-scale mills in rural Southeast Alaska, supporting jobs in the Tongass National Forest, while relieving harvest pressure from live yellow-cedar stands. ACRC and partners recently published a report that explores the feasibility of harvesting dead yellow-cedar stands and the challenges and benefits for small businesses in using this resource.

Alpine Monitoring

ACRC installed the first long-term alpine vegetation monitoring station in Southeast Alaska as part of the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments.

Inhabited by cold-adapted species, alpine environments are especially vulnerable to climate change. In 2001, an international team of researchers in Vienna, Austria formed the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) to document changes in vegetation and ecosystem stability in high altitude environments. From alpine ecosystems in high deserts to polar regions, the GLORIA network spans over 60 sites across 6 continents. At each monitoring station, three to four summit sites at different elevations on the same mountain are selected and monitored with soil temperature loggers and long-term vegetation plots. ACRC, the US Forest Service, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the University of Washington Herbarium led an effort to install a GLORIA site in the mountains outside Juneau. It’s one of only three GLORIA sites in the state, and the only long-term alpine monitoring station in southeast Alaska.

Ocean Acidification

ACRC was part of a collaborative effort with the Alaska Marine Highway System to monitor ocean acidification in southeast Alaska and British Columbia.

In the Gulf of Alaska, cold temperatures, influx of freshwater from streams and glaciers, and naturally high concentrations of carbon dioxide mean that marine waters are predisposed to acidification. As a result, Alaska is expected to experience the effects of ocean acidification sooner and more severely than lower latitudes. Alaskan communities and ecosystems rely heavily on the health of the ocean, and the impacts of ocean acidification may be significant for marine life, seafood industries, and the economies of local communities.

To understand the complex dynamics of ocean acidification along the northern Pacific coast, continuous measurements are needed at a large scale. ACRC, the Hakai Institute, the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS), the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network, and the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory formed a partnership with the Alaska Marine Highway System to establish an unprecedented ocean monitoring effort. In 2017, the M/V Columbia collected, analyzed, and reported back on the surface seawater chemistry along its route, the longest ferry run in North America. Measurements of this frequency and extent can help determine acidification hotspots as well as refugia, and help fishery, mariculture, tourism, and wildlife managers mitigate and adapt to acidification patterns. 

Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network

From 2016 to 2021, ACRC hosted the Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network, an international research network funded by the National Science Foundation to address information gaps, develop regional collaborations, and synthesize knowledge about water, carbon, and nutrient fluxes in the Pacific coastal temperate rainforest.

The Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network worked to measure the complex interactions between soils, streams, forests, and the ocean to determine how water, carbon, and other materials move through coastal watersheds to marine environments. Some of the goals of the research network included determining how climate change will affect the land-to-ocean flow of materials, what role the PCTR has in the global carbon cycle now and in the future, how important terrestrial nutrients are to nearshore marine ecosystem processes, and what might happen if these linkages change.