Dr. Sue Ziegler
Canada Research Chair in Boreal Biogeochemistry
Research involves: Using chemical signatures to understand ecosystem responses to climate change.
Research relevance: This research will lead to the development of Earth system models for climate prediction and adaptation strategies for water, forest and fishery resources.
Uncovering chemical clues of climate change from land to sea
Boreal forest landscapes represent over 50 per cent of the watershed area draining into the Arctic ocean and are perfuse with water bodies that are currently experiencing increased color due to rapid landscape changes. The organic materials rendering this color provide new sources of nutrients and energy but also reduce light and carry metals, including some toxic forms, to the aquatic environment with unknown controls and consequences. These organics also carry clues that help trace their origins and the changes happening in the landscape upstream.
Dr. Ziegler and her research group investigate the chemical clues uncovered from organics in soils, streams, rivers and coastal ecosystems in order to determine how boreal landscapes are responding to climate change and what impacts those responses have on aquatic and marine ecosystems. Combining measures of carbon and nutrients with specific chemical markers of source and environmental processes her group quantifies watershed scale transfers of carbon and nutrients and their sources. Applying these tools and measures to a platform of study sites along longitudinal transect of boreal watersheds, they are able to link ecosystem changes with climate factors and their aquatic consequences.
These environmental investigations by Dr. Ziegler’s research group will provide key information for the development of Earth system models that we rely upon for climate prediction. The knowledge her team uncovers about the controls and impacts on forest nutrients and productivity, and aquatic and marine food web connections will also be used to develop responsive management strategies for water, forestry and fisheries resources.
Learn more about Dr. Ziegler's Biogeochemistry of Boreal Ecosystems Research Group here.