Comparison of winter limnology between selected reservoirs in Saskatchewan

Lakes across much of Canada are ice-covered for long periods every year. Ice cover creates conditions fundamentally different from other seasons, with low light penetration, low temperatures, and the presence of a barrier to gas exchange. Climate change predictions suggest that reductions in ice cover can be expected. However, logistical challenges associated with winter field work mean that we have relatively poor understanding of current conditions in lakes during winter. As a result, prediction of future changes is fraught with uncertainty.

The major objective of this study is to understand how declining periods of ice cover will affect lake ecology and biogeochemistry. During the winter 2012 -2013 season a high frequency sensor network was installed at several lakes in Saskatchewan to measure changes in temperature, light and oxygen concentrations. This new understanding will help in building models of winter biogeochemistry. This will help to predict the ecological and biogeochemical effects of reduced ice cover, and contribute to an improved understanding of how climate change will affect lakes.

The freeze-over and mixing processes in lake and reservoirs can be modeled using the hydrodynamic & water quality model CE-QUAL-W2. There is much experience in-house with this model applied to Lake Diefenbaker, a reservoir constructed in 1967 along the South Saskatchewan River. The model has also been implemented to simulate freeze-over and mixing in Blackstrap Lake, also in Saskatchewan. The student may extend the model to include water quality processes.

Faculty Supervisor:

Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt


Lucero Herrera Quitl



Environmental sciences



University of Saskatchewan



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