The project was originally known as OCEANS and was initiated by the Ocean Futures Planning Committee of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) in 2001. The intention was to identify the effects of global change on the ocean and the most important biological and chemical aspects of the ocean’s role in global change.
The project’s name was changed from OCEANS to IMBER – Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research, and the first IMBER Science Plan and Implementation Strategy (SPIS) was published in 2005.
During its first five years (2005-2010), IMBER progressed in parallel with GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics). A Transition Task Team was set up to recommend how the second phase of IMBER should accommodate new developments in marine ecosystem research.
When GLOBEC ended in March 2010, its ongoing regional programmes (Climate Impacts on Top Oceanic Predators (CLIOTOP) and Ecosystem Studies of Subarctic Seas (ESSAS)) were incorporated into IMBER, and the Integrated Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Southern Ocean (ICED) became an IMBER regional programme. A supplement to the SPIS was developed to give guidance on the integration of the regional programmes. At the same time, the Sustained Indian Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research (SIBER) regional programme was established.
In 2016, the current SPIS was published which focuses even more on the integration of marine and human systems. The name of the project was changed to the Integrated Marine Biosphere Research project (IMBeR) to reflect this new direction.