History

As with human exploration of the Earth's poles in general, scientific expeditions to the Arctic have been relatively recent. In the 1800s there were casual observations of freezing and thawing limited in extent to lakes found along seafaring routes, such as the discovery of and records made for Lake Hazen by the Greely expedition to Ellesmere Island in 1882. Ancillary information on lakes from such expeditions continued through the early 1900s, but following World War II several permanent bases were established in the Arctic that increased the number of scientific observations on lakes. There was a big push to understand arctic ecosystems from the international community during the 1960s and especially in the 1970s with the establishment of the International Biological Programme (IBP). The IBP had two aquatic sites in the Arctic (Point Barrow, Alaska and Char Lake, Canada) and paved the way for several intensive research programs, notably the Long-Term Ecological Research program (LTER) based initially in the U.S. and now extending internationally. With the ramp-up of interest in climate change in the 1990s, and the early indicators of its potential global impact, the lack of earlier investigations of arctic lakes has been compensated by a flurry of recent studies and reports, including the joint international project of Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. This interest continues today, and for those interested there are several more in-depth reviews of arctic limnology by John Hobbie and Warwick Vincent, and of the past history of arctic lakes by John Smol and colleagues that provide an entry point to current topics and the primary literature.

Canada Tree Line
Figure 1 Map of the Arctic showing the Arctic Circle (long-dashed line), treeline (short-dashed line), and July 10 °C isotherm (solid line). Adapted from Vincent etal. (2008).

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