A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
DOINews: Research Highlight: Integrated Ecosystem Model
The Alaska Climate Science Center recently sat down for a short conversation with David McGuire, the Principal Investigator of the Integrated Ecosystem Model (IEM) project and Amy Breen, a project manager and research professor affiliated with the IEM project to talk about the IEM project, its goals, and significance for studying and managing climate change in Alaska and Northwest Canada.
What is the Integrated Ecosystem Model (IEM)?
David McGuire: The IEM for Alaska and Northwest Canada is an effort to try and forecast landscape change within the Alaska and Northwest Canada region.
Amy Breen: The IEM brings together climate driven changes to disturbance, vegetation, permafrost, and hydrology to illustrate how arctic and boreal landscapes may be altered in the future. The coupled model is comprised of three individual ecosystem models because these different drivers don't occur in isolation.
David McGuire: The IEM is a 5-year project, and we had a pilot year in 2011. This phase is 2012-2016, and we're just starting the second year of the project.
What is the significance of the study area?
David McGuire: The study area is Alaska and Northwest Canada, which is sometimes referred to as the Western Arctic. In general high latitude regions are expected to experience the greatest amount of warming. They are warming at twice the rate of the global average. Were already seeing a lot of changes occurring this area. Because it is expected to change the fastest, we are trying to get ahead of the curve to understand these changes and the implications of these changes on resource management. Understanding how the landscape may change and affect ecosystem services is the overall thrust of this project.
What kinds of project activities are happening this year?
David McGuire: This year, we have a number of activities. We're coupling models of vegetation change, ecosystem change, and permafrost properties so we can forecast landscape change.
What kinds of people make up the IEM team?
Amy Breen: The collaborators on the project are from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and we have members from different research communities, including the Geophysical Institute Permafrost Lab, the Institute of Arctic Biology, and the Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning.
David McGuire: Another part of the team is the data group and they are responsible for helping us with those issues. We also have software engineers that help us set up the software coupling program. And then we have a couple of research subgroups, one of which is working on tundra fire and treeline dynamics, another is working on thermokarst dynamics, and another is working on wetland dynamics.
How does this project meet regional needs?
David McGuire: There has been a real gap in the needs of resource managers to assess how climate change will affect resources. The models haven't been developed to do those assessments. Our question is, “how will landscapes change?” Once people get forecasts of how things may change, they can relate the changes to the resources they manage.
Amy Breen: We anticipate that the results from the project will be used by natural resource managers and other stakeholders to predict and plan for potential landscape changes in Alaska and Northwest Canada.