IM Background and History

Last changed: 11 April 2024

Integrated Monitoring (IM) in natural ecosystems aims to generate time series data depicting various processes at a specific location. This initiative has been ongoing in various forms since 1981.


In 1979 the UN convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) was ratified under the auspices of the UN Commission for Europe (UN ECE). Following the convention, several monitoring programmes, known as International Cooperative Programmes (ICP)”, were initiated to demonstrate the impacts of emission reductions on various ecosystems and man-made structures. These programmes focus on freshwater, forests, natural ecosystems (IM), cultivated and wild plants, and buildings. A dedicated programme is also tasked with mapping critical pollutant loads.


In Sweden, ecosystem monitoring was initiated as part of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's national program for environmental quality monitoring (PMK) that commenced in 1978, following a parliamentary decision the year before. The idea of a national environmental monitoring program had been discussed for years, driven by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

The Integrated Monitoring (IM) program expanded over time and covered around fifteen areas from Skåne to northern Norrbotten, primarily focusing on monitoring air pollution effects in natural areas representing different parts of the country. This included various types of forests, open marshes, lakes and streams, as well as alpine and subalpine regions, all protected from active land use. The IM program comprised multiple biological and chemical subprograms, such as deposition, soil and water chemistry, birds, fish, plants, and wildlife.

This extensive monitoring activity continued until around 1994 when a new national environmental monitoring program was introduced. This led to a reduction in the number of IM areas (now four), with a more specific focus on hydrology, chemical flows, and biological effects. Some biological subprograms and the environmental toxin program were transitioned into other programs.

International environmental monitoring follows the Swedish model

In 1989, the international pilot phase of "Integrated Monitoring (IM)" was launched following the Swedish model. Sweden emerged as a leading nation and assumed the chairmanship of the international IM programme. Until 2022, Finland was responsible for the international database and publishing reports, including the IM manual with method descriptions and reporting procedures. In 2022, Sweden and the institution for water and the environment took over the responsibility from Finland for the international IM programme

Funding and participating institutions

The financing of the IM programme has been through the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency since its inception. Apart from the SLU's Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, the Swedish Geological Survey (SGU) and IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute also participate in the monitoring. Each institution is accountable for its specific data, while the Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment holds the main responsibility for coordination and reporting to the international database.