Southeast Test Case

Map of the Southeast Test Case region.

Southeast Alaska encompasses the state’s panhandle and is primarily a coastal mountainous region composed of extensive temperate rainforest and permanent ice fields. The area’s predominant driver of environmental change is glacial recession.

This glacial retreat strongly affects water discharge, which will in turn alters the stability and fluvial, biogeochemical, and thermal properties of hydrological systems and has consequences for stream and estuarine ecosystems that serve as reservoirs of biological productivity, especially for bellwether biological resources such as salmon and plankton. A second ramification of glacial retreat is accelerated forest succession, which alters carbon sequestration potential, the structure of riparian corridors, and the flux of organic biomass to streams. These glacier-driven hydro-ecological processes are thus the major sources of landscape change in Southeast Alaska, and have the potential to radically alter access to and availability of key resources, such as salmon and the forests and other habitats which support tourism.

The Southeast test case focuses on patterns of key variables - including ice, freshwater, alluvial forest, estuaries, salmon, and plankton - to better understand the consequences of changing environments. Reesarchers are evaluating community-level social consequences as well as the adaptive capacity of natural-resource management institutions to respond to projected changes to these variables.

The objectives of the test case are to:

  • Understand how climate dynamics influence the spatial-temporal variability of key ecosystem indicators: ice, freshwater hydroecology, estuarine productivity, and floodplain fores.
  • Understand the values of, and consequences for, the ecosystem-services associated with these indicators.
  • Evaluate the capacities of resource-managers and nature-based tourism operators to perceive, project and respond to changes in these services.

Project data acquired by the Southeast Test Case, as well as relevant data compiled from other agencies and organizations, can be accessed at the Southeast Test Case data portal, a collaboration with the Southeast Alaska GIS LIbrary.

Alaska EPSCoR has also produced an introductory video and a PDF highlight about the Southeast Test Case.

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