By Emilie Reny-Nolin, MiraNor’s coordinator
Photos courtesy of Markusie Annahatak, Milad Fakhari, Jasmin Raymond, and Richard Martel
Markusie Annahatak, General Manager at the Arqivik Landholding Corporation, worked with MiraNor’s team to organize a field campaign to study the environment of Arctic charr, a fish of great importance to Tasiujaq’s community. The objective was to have a better understanding of the groundwater discharge in the Berard River.
Why is groundwater so important for Arctic charr?
Arctic charr are temperature dependent fish. During extreme temperature events leading to high or low water temperature, they will shelter in zones with higher groundwater seepage in the river. They reach areas where groundwater resurfaces, called thermal refuges, because it has a more suitable temperature for their survival. As groundwater is not in direct contact with air temperature and solar radiation, its temperature is more constant throughout the year.
As extreme water temperatures in rivers are likely to occur more frequently in northern Quebec due to climate change, thermal refuges created by groundwater might be a life saver for Arctic charr, accessible country food for Tasiujaq’s community.
Collaborators from Tasiujaq’s community, along with researchers Jasmin Raymond, Richard Martel, and PhD student Milad Fakhari from MiraNor’s team, installed piezometers in the riverbed and on the shore in the summer of 2019. These piezometers were necessary to identify zones with higher groundwater discharge in the Berard River.
Piezometers are stainless steel pipes with a screen at the bottom allowing water to circulate. Temperature sensors were then installed in the piezometers and in other pipes in the ground to collect groundwater and soil temperature data.
The data was collected during two years and recovered in 2021 allowing confirmation of the cold and warm areas observed on the aerial thermal imagery. In order to confirm that colder water (darker colour on the aerial thermal imagery) was actually groundwater, water samples were taken for radon analysis.
Why is analyzing Radon-222 so useful to identify groundwater?
Radon-222 is a noble radioactive gas that naturally exists in soil, bedrock and groundwater. When groundwater is not in contact with soil for about 3.5 days, Radon-222 will disappear. Therefore, where radon concentrations are higher in the river, it confirms that groundwater seepage is higher in that area. Milad Fakhari will analyze these water samples along with the data from the Berard River and share the results with Markusie Annahatak from the Arqivik Landholding Corporation and Tasiujaq’s community. The conclusions of this study will also be available on MiraNor’s website miranor.inrs.ca.
MiraNor’s researchers Jasmin Raymond and Richard Martel along with PhD student Milad Fakhari are specialized in hydrogeology and geothermal energy. Their expertise allows them to answer many questions related to groundwater. MiraNor also includes researchers specializing in climate change, ecotoxicology, geomorphology and river habitat, environmental hydrology, and statistics. As a group of independent researchers, they can provide the scientific knowledge to contribute to the sustainable development of Northern Quebec.
To learn more about MiraNor’s research projects visit miranor.inrs.ca
This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada.