Improving Predictions of Changing Arctic Ecosystems
A key challenge for Earth System Models is accurately representing land surface and subsurface processes and their complex interactions in a warming climate. This is true for ecosystems across the globe, but particularly critical for Arctic ecosystems, which are projected to warm at a rate twice that of the global average by the end of the 21st century. The Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments in the Arctic (NGEE-Arctic) project is addressing this challenge by integrating process studies, ecosystem observations, and computational modeling to improve the ability to understand, model, and predict important ecosystem-climate feedbacks in the Arctic. This research focuses on rapidly changing permafrost landscapes where large carbon stocks are vulnerable to release as greenhouse gases. Field research sites in different types of permafrost environments in Alaska allow researchers to test and apply a framework for measuring and modeling the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems in a changing climate.
NGEE-Arctic draws upon expertise from across a consortium of DOE National Laboratories, academic institutions, and international, state, and Federal agencies. The project benefits from regional co-location of sites with the DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program, the NSF National Ecological Observatory Network program, and NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, each of which provide valuable data resources. In addition, researchers from NASA’s Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment and Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment campaigns (Appendix III. Observations to Support Global-Change Research) are using NGEE-Arctic field sites for validation of remote-sensing products and, in turn, providing opportunities to extrapolate insights from field plots to landscapes and ultimately, to regions. A focus on scaling will enable these interagency activities to deliver a process-rich model allowing the evolution of Arctic ecosystems in a changing climate to be modeled at high resolution.