"...improving climate model predictions through advanced understanding of coupled processes in Arctic terrestrial ecosystems."    

Increasing our confidence in climate projections for high-latitude regions of the world will require a coordinated set of investigations that target improved process understanding and model representation of important ecosystem-climate feedbacks. The Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE Arctic) seeks to address this challenge by quantifying the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of terrestrial ecosystems in Alaska.

Initial research will focus on the highly dynamic landscapes of the North Slope (Barrow, Alaska) where thaw lakes, drained thaw lake basins, and ice-rich polygonal ground offer distinct land units for investigation and modeling. A focus on scaling based on investigations within these geomorphological units will allow us to deliver a process-rich ecosystem model, extending from bedrock to the top of the vegetative canopy, in which the evolution of Arctic ecosystems in a changing climate can be modeled at the scale of a high resolution Earth System Model grid cell (i.e., 30x30 km grid size). This vision includes mechanistic studies in the field and in the laboratory; modeling of critical and interrelated water, nitrogen, carbon, and energy dynamics; and characterization of important interactions from molecular to landscape scales that drive feedbacks to the climate system.

NGEE Arctic Brochure


An important challenge for Earth System Models (ESMs) is to accurately represent land surface and subsurface processes and their complex interactions in a warming climate. This is true for all regions of the world, but it is especially important for high-latitude 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 (NGEE Arctic) is a 10-year project (2012 to 2022) that seeks to increase our confidence in global climate projections through a coordinated series of model-inspired investigations undertaken by a collaborative team of modelers, data managers, and empiricists spanning a range of scientific disciplines. NGEE Arctic focuses on high-latitude ecosystems underlain by carbon-rich permafrost that are vulnerable to thaw in a warmer climate. In Phase 1 (2012 to 2014), NGEE Arctic tested and applied a multi-scale measurement and modeling framework for ecosystems and watersheds characterized by cold, continuous permafrost on the North Slope of Alaska. These efforts provided unique datasets for model parameterization and benchmarking and knowledge on topics ranging from watershed hydrology to plant physiology that is being adopted by DOE’s Earth System Modeling program as fundamental new developments in a next-generation ESM, the Accelerated Climate Model for Energy (ACME). In Phase 2 (2015 to 2018), we propose to establish a southern site which, compared to our research site on the North Slope, is characterized by transitional ecosystems; warm, discontinuous permafrost; higher annual precipitation; and well-defined watersheds with strong topographic gradients. Our selection of the Seward Peninsula is based on a Phase 1 analysis indicating that western Alaska is a proxy for the future ecological and climatic regime of the North Slope of Alaska toward the end of the century. One or more sites on the Seward Peninsula provide an opportunity to expand our understanding and model representation of (1) landscape structure and organization on the storage and flux of carbon, water, and nutrients, (2) edaphic and geochemical mechanisms responsible for variable CO2 and CH4 fluxes across a range of permafrost conditions, (3) variation in plant functional traits across space and time, and in response to changing environmental conditions, (4) controls on shrub distribution and associated climate biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks, and (5) changes in surface and groundwater hydrology expected with warming in the 21st century. Our vision in Phase 1, and now extended into Phase 2, strengthens the connection between process studies in Arctic ecosystems and high-resolution landscape modeling and scaling strategies that will foster a strong interaction across the DOE Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program. The NGEE Arctic project supports the BER mission to advance a robust predictive understanding of Earth’s climate and environmental systems by delivering a process-rich ecosystem model, extending from bedrock to the top of the vegetative canopy/atmospheric interface, in which the evolution of Arctic ecosystems in a changing climate can be modeled at the scale of a high-resolution, next-generation ESM grid cell. Research in Phase 1, and now proposed for Phase 2, prepares our team for pan-Arctic simulations of ecosystem-climate feedbacks in Phase 3 (2019 to 2022). Safety, collaboration, communication and outreach, and a strong commitment to data management, sharing, and archiving are key underpinnings of our model-inspired research in the Arctic.

Leadership Team

Stan Wullschleger - Project Director
Vladimir Romanovsky - Chief Scientist
Peter Thornton -Modeling Team
Tom Boden - Data Manager
Susan Heinz - Project Manager

Institutional Leads

-W. Robert Bolton, University of Alaska Fairbanks
-Susan Hubbard, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
-Alistair Rogers, BNL Institutional Lead
-Cathy Wilson, Los Alamos National Lab
-Stan Wullschleger, Oak Ridge National Lab


Science Question Team Leads

Science Question 1:  Joel Rowland, Los Alamos National Lab
Science Question 2:  David Graham, Oak Ridge National Lab
Science Question 3:  Colleen Iversen, Oak Ridge National Lab
Science Question 4:  Margaret Torn, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Science Question 5:  Cathy Wilson, Los Alamos National Lab


NGEE Arctic - Phase 2 
Science Advisory Board (SAB) Members

Julia Boike (AWI, Germany)

Isla Myers-Smith (University of Edinburgh)

Phillip Marsh (Wilfrid Laurier University)

David Lawrence (NCAR)

Charles Miller (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)