This book in the Long Term Ecology Research (LTER) Synthesis Series, reports results from ecological studies at a site in northern Alaska, the region around Toolik Lake. When the study began in the mid-1970s, ecological research in northern Alaska had been restricted by the difficulty of access in a region with no roads. Accordingly, research was concentrated on the coastal ocean, shallow ponds and lakes, and the wet coastal tundra near the Barrow research laboratory where there was an airport. In addition to research at nearby sites, the ONR-funded Barrow laboratory supported a few temporary field camps in the mountains where small planes could land on lakes and snow fields.
This era of limited access suddenly changed in 1975 when the construction of the oil pipeline and the adjacent Dalton Highway gave scientists easy access to a transect of the coastal plain, foothills, and mountains of the Brooks Range. A foothills site with tussock tundra, the deep Toolik Lake, and the Kuparuk River was chosen for detailed investigation. In 1987, the research became the Arctic LTER project, a part of the NSF Long Term Ecological Research program (LTER) that now includes 25 sites. The Arctic LTER project is responsible for the collection of environmental data and the measurement of samples of various types from the tundra and aquatic systems as well as for the archiving of environmental data accessible to all.