The Integrated Ecosystem Model for Alaska and Northwest Canada

Two maps of projected changes in treeline across the IEM spatial domain.

As the Western Arctic rapidly warms, changes in temperature, precipitation, permafrost, vegetation, and fire are closely linked. The Integrated Ecosystem Model project develops projection outputs for the Western Arctic to better account for how these systems are interconnected. Users will benefit from more robust decision-support tools and a better understanding of how tundra fire and vegetation succession, thermokarst, and wetland processes will be altered by climate change. 

The IEM project develops a framework that integrates key driving components for ecosystem change to better understand how complex ecosystems will respond to climate change. By combining the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM), Geophysical Institute Permafrost Lab model (GIPL), and the Alaska Frame-Based Ecosystem Code (ALFRESCO) the IEM will improve our understanding of the response of ecosystems to changes in each of these systems and the landscape as a whole. This synchronous coupling of systems allows for more robust interconnectivity to provide higher quality outputs to decision makers.

Why are we doing this?

  • In the rapidly changing climate of Alaska and Northwest Canada, decision makers need a better understanding of how changes in key ecosystem processes are linked and how they will affect the broader region. Landscape change has the potential to impact wildlife habitat and migration routes; the prevalence of fire and other disturbance; and the availability and accessibility of natural resources for subsistence, recreation, infrastructure, and industry.
  • Ecosystem change spans political boundaries. The IEM project spans Alaska, the Yukon, and northern British Columbia, serving as a valuable resource for entities focusing on landscape issues that do not necessarily stop at the Alaska-Canada border.
  • Direct beneficiaries of these improved model outputs include BLM Alaska Fire Service, State of Alaska Division of Forestry, National Parks Service, USDA Forest Service, regional and local planning departments, and Alaska Native communities.


The primary goal of the project was to integrate key components of disturbance regimes, permafrost dynamics, hydrology, and vegetation succession/migration, and how they interact. An interactive web tool to deliver geospatial products is in development after consulting potential users on the most relevant variables, scales, and time-series for various land management purposes.

End products

This project will provide:

  • Spatial products, tables, graphs, and source code across six categories: climate products, ecosystem dynamics products, disturbance products, land cover and landscape products, soil properties products, and model code and documentation products.
  • An interactive web tool which provides visualizations of existing IEM-produced high-priority synthesized geospatial products for use by the resource management community and others.


Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Scenarios Network for Alaska + Arctic Planning
University of Alaska Fairbanks