Terrestrial Ecosystems Community of Practice

Developing a landscape-scale understanding of the drivers and impacts of terrestrial ecosystem change.

Scope of Activities

The Terrestrial Ecosystems Community of Practice was created under the Arctic Research Plan 2017-2021 to develop a landscape-scale understanding of the drivers and impacts of terrestrial ecosystem change. It continues to meet and contribute to the goals and objectives of the Arctic Research Plan 2022-2026.


Team Leaders

Elizabeth Powers
United States Geological Survey

Elizabeth Hoy
NASA Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Office, Global Science and Technology, Inc.

Daryl Yang
Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Deliverables from the Arctic Research Plan

1.1 Support the health of Arctic residents through research on public health needs, disparities, and delivery.

  • 1.1.3 Continue research on air quality and human health. This will include an evaluation of outdoor air quality and health outcomes in Alaskan communities and a Federally-funded, local-partner-conducted evaluation of interventions to improve indoor air quality and decrease respiratory symptoms in children. Research will be shared and summarized in webinars, publications, and reports.

1.2 Address emerging threats to food safety and access, as well as food and nutrition security in the Arctic, through research that addresses how climate and environmental change is affecting the abundance, accessibility, and use of traditional foods and traditional ways of life.

  • 1.2.7 Fund and conduct research, and produce a report, on changes in abundance and distribution of migratory caribou in Arctic Alaska.
  • 1.2.8 Provide funding opportunities and conduct research, and produce a report, on the impacts of rapid expansion of beaver habitat in the U.S. Arctic, including effects on fisheries and ecosystem services, access to traditional foods, and overall community health.

1.3 Provide research and technical support for water and sanitation infrastructure.

  • 1.3.1 Synthesize and expand upon existing efforts to create data visualization maps of areas at high risk for coastal erosion, permafrost thaw, and flooding within specified future time periods (e.g., 10 years, 50 years, 100 years) to identify at-risk areas and inform investments in climate resilient infrastructure.
  • 1.3.3 Support research on the feasibility of PFAS treatment for surface water and groundwater in the Arctic. This will help inform a strategy on PFAS remediation of contaminated sites.

2.2 Observe, understand, predict, and project Arctic ecosystem change and its impacts on humans and the entire Earth system.

  • 2.2.1 Advance capacity to better understand, quantify, and predict methane emissions from permafrost changes in the Arctic through international collaborations.
  • 2.2.2 Carry out and synthesize research and monitoring needed to improve understanding of important Arctic ecosystem processes and feedbacks. This will include responses to environmental changes, such as the associated impacts on wildlife and human communities and infrastructure. This work will include conference sessions and scientific publications.
  • 2.2.3 Develop and update meaningful products for delivering findings and information concerning key climate features, including the annual release of the peer-reviewed Arctic Report Card on the current state of the Arctic relative to the historical record.
  • 2.2.5 Convene community-wide workshop highlighting how remote sensing data products can be used to inform multi-scale land models from plot to pan-Arctic and inform use of remote sensing data in land surface models.

2.3 Understand interactions between social, ecological, and physical Arctic systems, particularly in the context of coastal, climate, and cryospheric change.

  • 2.3.4 Integrate information from field, laboratory, and remote sensing studies to examine and quantify relationships among surface topography, vegetation composition, hydrology, disturbance effects (including fire, thermokarst, land use change, and wildlife), geophysical processes in permafrost soils, and humans. Share results in reports, presentations, and scientific publications.
  • 2.3.5 Better understand the rate of terrestrial and subsea permafrost degradation and their roles in environmental and ecosystems processes and services (e.g., atmospheric and terrestrial carbon, Arctic greening, species invasion) by integrating empirical information into modeling efforts at various scales and delivering results via publications and presentations.
  • 2.3.6 Foster continued efforts to link multi-agency investments while expanding empirical datasets and synthesizing information that will inform the development of updated essential variable maps for Alaska, Greenland, and the circumpolar Arctic (e.g., permafrost ground ice content, topography, bathymetry, vegetation).
  • 2.3.7 Improve high-resolution models’ ability to capture coastal processes at the interface of ocean, land, and atmosphere by supporting targeted collaborations among model developers, users, and decision-makers. Products will include an interagency scientific peer-reviewed publication and conference sessions that address these models.

4.1 Summarize currently available data and information requirements associated with hazard and risk mitigation, adaptation, and response efforts. Synthesize community-led activities and information to identify potential needs for future efforts.

  • 4.1.1 Conduct a study identifying where information used in decision-making and planning can be improved through access to new or additional data sources. This study should consider a wide range of activities associated with ongoing responses to common and emerging hazards, including risk reduction efforts and emergency preparedness and response.
  • 4.1.2 Share findings of deliverable 4.1.1 as a means (1) to spur additional research and science communication aimed at addressing unmet needs for planning, prevention, response, and recovery and (2) to inform time-sensitive decision-making and planning processes.

4.2 Update and improve the “Statewide Threat Assessment: Identification of Threats from Erosion, Flooding, and Thawing Permafrost in Remote Alaska Communities.”

  • 4.2.1 Undertake a study to identify the top 10 threats/hazards to communities and critical remote state and Federal government infrastructure in the state of Alaska that should be included in the Statewide Threat Assessment. This might include coastal and river erosion, flooding, thawing permafrost, and changes in the seasonal snowpack.
  • 4.2.2 Upon completion of 4.2.1, establish a data collection and collation plan to include mechanisms to collect threat/hazard data that may not be readily available.
  • 4.2.3 Collect and integrate disparate threat/hazard information and perform modeling and analysis to understand where natural and human-made threats and hazards pose a risk to Arctic communities.

DATA 1 Encourage and implement FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) and CARE (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility, and Ethics) data management principles in the Arctic.

  • DATA 1.1 Identify verified points of contact (e.g., agency champions, data practitioners, Arctic residents, Indigenous organizations) and their areas of expertise and interests for working with the data team on exploring and implementing FAIR and CARE in Arctic data management. As part of developing the points of contact, identify and track representation across many axes of diversity (demographics, disciplines/sectors, IARPC experience, career stage, and others) to ensure a diverse and representative group of contributors. The data team will check in with these groups regularly to ensure the points of contact are up to date.
  • DATA 1.3 Based on input from engagement activities, develop and update centralized documentation of thematic areas of interest, ongoing activities, and key documents and resources that can inform deliverables and future Biennial Implementation Plans.
  • DATA 1.4 Convene quarterly seminars, discussions, and training on FAIR and CARE data management in the Arctic. Ensure a diverse group of presenters and contributors are represented in these activities.

MOMP 1 Coordinate activities and communities of practice that bring together Arctic modeling, observing, monitoring, and prediction to advance Arctic research.

  • MOMP 1.1 Develop synthesis products, best-estimate datasets, model simulations, and model intercomparison studies from major Arctic field campaigns and long-term observational sites to advance the integration of observational and modeling studies and process-based assessment of model simulations.

MOMP 3 Support coordination and engagement with Federal, international, and non-Federal partners who are conducting monitoring, observing, modeling, and prediction of the Arctic.

  • MOMP 3.2 Coordinate communication of information about field activities to Alaska communities where the research is being conducted through the research expedition vessel status tracker and spring and fall reports on research season activities.

PILR 1 Fulfill Federal requirement to consult with Federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations.

  • PILR 1.1 Create a best practices document on meaningful consultation and engagement on Arctic research with Alaska Indigenous communities that is applicable to all Federal agencies.
  • PILR 1.2 Evaluate the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic 2018, and update as needed based on the evaluation.
  • PILR 1.3 Develop and deliver training for agencies to implement the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic.

PILR 2 Engage Arctic communities and individuals in research in a way that is meaningful to them.

  • PILR 2.1 Create a training toolkit for scientists that can be self-guided and used as needed. Topics may include cross-cultural communication, consultation, participatory research, Indigenous Knowledge, overview of Indigenous culture groups, formal agreements, and how to contract and consult with Indigenous companies and individuals.
  • PILR 2.2 Create a report of examples where IARPC member agencies have engaged Indigenous Knowledge holders in research.
  • PILR 2.3 Request that each Priority Area Collaboration Team host regular meetings that meaningfully engage with Indigenous leaders, groups, and/or communities. This includes developing a list of contacts to support requests for engagement or tracking engagement with Indigenous participation.
  • PILR 2.4 Analyze and develop a report on broader impacts of science/research teams on Indigenous health and resilience.
  • PILR 2.5 Hold interagency meetings/workshops to identify mechanisms for Federal agencies to effectively communicate science plans and findings among themselves and with communities.

PILR 3 Develop guidance for agencies to consistently apply participatory research and Indigenous leadership in research.

  • PILR 3.1 Co-define “Indigenous leadership in research” with Tribes, Indigenous organizations, and Federal agencies; and integrate into the Principles for Conducting Research in the Arctic and its training toolkit and best practices documents.
  • PILR 3.2 Hold interagency meetings/workshops to identify methods to streamline contracting/agreements and compensation processes to make co-stewardship and co-production in research more equitable and achievable.
  • PILR 3.3 Convene discussions to identify mechanisms to foster equitable pathways for Indigenous leadership in research.
  • PILR 3.4 Identify best practices for Federal agencies to support capacity for Tribes and Indigenous Knowledge holders in research. Distribute guidance on best practices to IARPC agencies.
  • PILR 3.5 Ensure consistent terminology for Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and Local Knowledge for IARPC. Suggest primary language for IARPC be Indigenous Knowledge.

Accomplishments

Under the 2017-2021 Arctic Research Plan, the Terrestrial Ecosystems Community of Practice:

  • Supported efforts to improve understanding of important ecosystem processes and feedbacks, including NASA ABoVE, USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems, and USGS Integrated Ecosystem Model for Alaska and Western Canada.
  • Supported progress by USGS, NASA, and NSF-funded research on nature, detection, and climate attribution of agents of landscape change.
  • Brought together experts to discuss using remotely sensed datasets to monitor ecosystem properties.
  • Supported improvement and development of advanced models for integrating climate, disturbance, above- and below-ground dynamics, and interactions and feedbacks to characterize and predict Arctic landscape and ecosystem change.
  • Coordinated the development of maps from remotely-sensed data and synthesize available data to document changing plant, fish, and terrestrial animal populations and their habitats.
  • Supported and shared efforts to track population dynamics and species movements.
  • Shared information and case studies of incorporating scientific observations and the perspectives of Indigenous Knowledge holders into assessments of how changing Arctic ecosystems, flora, and fauna are affecting important subsistence activities, lifestyles, and well-being of northern residents.
  • Supported agency and agency-funded efforts to evaluate how changing fire regimes have and are likely to impact northern communities.
  • Coordinated research on wildfires, including statistics, mapping, and modeling efforts to estimate emissions from fires.

For a full summary of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Community of Practice’s accomplishments under the 2017-2021 Arctic Research Plan, see the 2021 Performance Element Summary Statements.