WCS North America

Coastal Lagoons

Coastal Arctic lagoons represent important habitat for a diversity of fish species and sustain a vital subsistence fishery for Alaskan villages. Despite the ecological and cultural importance of coastal lagoons, very little research has been conducted on lagoon fish communities in the western Arctic. Our research addresses the need for a better understanding of fish ecology in these lagoons, as well as the dearth of scientific information about the fish resources used for subsistence. Without a clear understanding lagoon ecosystem structure and function, it is impossible for managers to detect long-term changes resulting from climate change, to quantify the impacts of development, or to implement appropriate management plans. For example, lagoons provide important habitat for whitefish species - one of the most important subsistence taxa in northwest Alaska. Local fishermen have observed the loss of “countless numbers” of whitefish in some areas of the western Arctic, emphasizing the need to understand, and if necessary, respond to the factors driving perceived declines.


    • Document fish community composition and patterns of use in the coastal lagoons of Cape Krusenstern National Monument and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Lagoons in these National Park units range in size, connectivity and saltwater influence, allowing us to sample fish distributions, abundance, and community composition through the season and across selected environmental gradients.
    • Examine trophic structure of lagoons by sampling fish diets. Examining fish diets will allow us to establish key trophic linkages among species and begin to develop a broader understanding of Arctic lagoon food webs.
    • Measure fish growth rates for resident and migratory species. Documenting fish growth rates will be used to monitor long-term changes in fish condition, and ultimately changes to the lagoon conditions that affect fish growth.
    • Incorporate findings into best management practices. Our results will inform coastal management plans in the context of potential threats.


    Kotzebue Sound Whitefish Ecology and Seasonal Dynamics

    Starting in 2015, we will begin sampling fish communities in the coastal lagoons of Cape Krusenstern National Monument and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. This work will span the entire growing season will build on our previous sampling efforts from the summer of 2012.

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    WCS Arctic Beringia
    P.O. Box 751110 Fairbanks, AK 99775
    (907) 750-9991

    Key Staff

    Partners Include

    National Park Service
    University of Alaska Fairbanks