DOE Announces $11 Million to Study Critical Ecosystems and Improve Climate and Earth System Modeling

July 2021

17 Projects Will Study Impacts of Climate Change on Watersheds, Wetlands, and Other Ecosystems

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)  announced  $11 million in funding for new research studying how critical ecosystems, such as forests, arid lands, and coastal environments, are impacted by extreme weather events, including floods, droughts, and heat waves. The 17 projects led by universities, which include collaborations with DOE national laboratories and other government agencies, will explore the most complex environments on Earth to help scientists improve their ability to accurately predict the evolving effects of climate and environmental change– a critical component to the Biden Administration’s effort to tackle the climate emergency.

“The Department of Energy plays a critical role in the nation’s efforts to understand and anticipate climate and weather disasters, and how they will affect our energy infrastructure,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “By pairing some of America’s top scientific researchers with DOE’s world-renowned national labs, we’re ensuring we’ll have the best data available to create a safer, cleaner, and more resilient planet for future generations.”

It is critical to study the complex chemical, physical, and biological processes of varied ecosystems and how they respond to climate and other disturbances. This research helps improve the accuracy and predictive power of climate-modeling computer simulations.   

Today’s funding announcement totals $11 million in FY 2021 funding for projects up to three years in duration. Awardees will pursue research on a range of topics, including the biological and chemical processes that occur in watersheds and wetlands, and the response and recovery of forests and other ecosystems to extreme weather and other types of disturbances.

Projects were chosen by competitive peer review under the DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement, under the Environmental System Science Program, sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), within the Department’s Office of Science. The BER program supports scientific research on complex biological, earth, and environmental systems to advance the nation’s energy and infrastructure security. 

Over the last three decades, BER has helped map the human genome, laid the foundation for modern biotechnology, and pioneered the initial research on atmospheric and ocean circulation that eventually led to climate and Earth system models. BER research has undertaken decadal-scale studies on tropical rainforests and the Arctic through the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEEs)  that have vastly improved our ability to model how these critical regions are responding to climate change, leading to groundbreaking advancements in climate modeling, developing the world’s highest resolution climate model used to test storm surge predictions and the melt rates for the world’s largest ice sheets.

Earlier this month, DOE awarded $15.6 million for new research studying the properties, formation, and interactions between atmospheric clouds and the aerosols that form them. These projects will help scientists better understand one of the most challenging aspects of earth system modeling and improve their ability to accurately predict weather and climate patterns.

See list of funded projects. See awards brochure.