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Ecology of the Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest

The north Pacific coastal temperate rainforest (PCTR) ecosystem, from central British Columbia to Alaska, includes the largest remaining old-growth forests in North America, supports some of the most robust wild fisheries on the continent, and is home to tens of thousands of people who depend on a resource and tourism-based economy for their livelihoods. The region is characterized by abundant year-round precipitation; a mountainous terrain fragmented by glaciers, icefields, and deep fjords; and complex terrestrial/marine connections.

Streams deliver bio-available carbon, nitrogen, iron, and phosphorus from forest soils and glacial silt to nearshore marine systems, and salmon deliver marine-based nutrients back upstream when they spawn and die. The PCTR has the highest (per unit area) carbon flux in the world, and the total volume of freshwater discharged through the rainforests of southeast Alaska alone is equal in magnitude to the Mississippi River. This massive runoff sustains the flow of the Alaska Coastal Current in the Gulf of Alaska, propagates high nutrient, low salinity gyres far into the Gulf, and supports an exceptionally productive marine food web.

The ACRC is involved in several projects exploring the intricate web of relationships that characterize this ecosystem so that we can better understand and manage the region’s resources.

Ecosystem Map

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