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Yukon River Basin Studies

Aerial view of the Charley River at Yukon Aerial view of the Charley River at Yukon. Photo by USGS.


The USGS, WRD National Research Program (NRP) and the Water Discipline at the Alaska Science Center have been cooperating to collect baseline and process-based water quality data in the Yukon River Basin (2001-2005) as part of a research-based NASQAN study to understand the Basinís response to climate change. Climatic warming of the Yukon River Basin is resulting in lengthening of the growing season, melting of permafrost, and deepening of the soil active layer. These and related processes are anticipated to result in changes in water and sediment chemistry and discharge in upcoming decades. A better understanding of baseline trends and processes controlling the water quality of the Yukon River and its tributaries will facilitate the proper management of resources as conditions change in response to environmental change. As a first step in understanding the these changes, the USGS is monitoring water discharge and making water and sediment chemistry measurements on the Yukon River and all of its major tributaries.

The NASQAN Yukon River study began with the first sample collection in October, 2000 at five fixed monitoring stations (three on the mainstem Yukon River and two major tributaries). Each year following, each Fixed Station was sampled seven times (once under ice and six open water) to build a multi-year water quality baseline dataset. During the years 2002-2005, process-based studies (synoptics) were conducted, sampling the entire 2100 mile reach of the Yukon River from headwaters in the Yukon Territory, Canada, to Pilot Station, Alaska, near the outlet to the Bering Sea. Eight additional mainstem sites and 47 major tributaries were also sampled. The last Fixed Station sample was collected in September, 2005. Each sampling consisted of a complete suite of water quality samples measuring over 90 constituents.

Map of the Yukon River Region
Location of the Yukon River Basin in Canada and Alaska

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