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Research Program Overview
Kachemak Bay Research Reserve

Arial view of Katchemak Bay
The diverse habitats and bathymetry of the Kachemak Bay fjord distinguish this estuary from others in the NERR system.

Kachemak Bay is remarkable for its diverse marine life, spectacular wilderness landscape, and its accessibility by road. However, what can easily escape the casual visitor, as well as life-long residents, is that this coastal embayment is dependent on distant marine systems for most of the nutrients, phytoplankton, plant spores, invertebrate larvae, and juvenile and adult fishes that arrive here as a result of current flow and upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and the North Pacific Ocean.

New challenges face the coastal habitat within the Reserve, such as sea level rise, changes in fresh and marine water temperatures, frequency of storm events, long-term drying trends, rapid loss of coastal glaciers, and coastal uplift. The KBRR is uniquely positioned to study the effects of climate change in the estuary and the local community ecology. Two major ice fields supply the Bay with melt water during the summers months, the Grewink/Yalik complex and the Harding ice field. Glacial melt water influences the biological diversity by determining: circulation patterns in the Bay, nutrient loading, salt marsh vegetation, plankton and larval transport, and the pH, salinity, turbidity, and water stratification of the estuary.

A glacier flows into Katchemak Bay
Biomonitoring fieldwork in Beluga Slough.

By understainding how the Kachemak Bay estuary functions and changes over time, Reserve scientists hope to predict how coastal systems respond to changes in climate and human-induced disturbances. The factors that influence estuarine systems often occur over long periods of time and across broad geographic areas. The Reserve System relies on sustained long-term monitoring to identify patterns of change which informs us about factors that contribute to the observed changes.The Reserve System's monitoring program has a national emphasis: a System-wide Monitoring Program and the Graduate Research Fellowship program; and a place-based research program which provide a foundation for developing solutions to coastal management problems.

For more information on the KBRR's Research Program, please contact Angela Doroff.