Terrestrial Organisms

NEON's observartional sampling of terrestrial organisms focuses on sentinel taxa, which are sensitive organisms that indicate the health of an ecosystem and provide data relevant to public health. Changes in community dynamics of sentinel taxa affect ecological processes, such as disease transmission rates, agricultural pest control, and ecosystem structure and function.

Sentinel taxa data collected at terrestrial field sites

NEON sentinel taxa selection criteria include: 1) wide geographical distribution for standardized sampling; 2) varied life histories, including lifespan and reproductive rates, that affect the rates of response to drivers such as climate change; 3) phylogenetic diversity; and 4) relevance to infectious disease ecology. NEON samples the sentinel taxa within the following groups:

  • Plants
  • Soil microbes
  • Breeding landbirds
  • Small mammals (rodents and shrews)
  • Ground beetles (family Carabidae)
  • Mosquitoes (family Culicidae)
  • Ticks (order Ixodida)

Integrated sampling design

NEON integrates terrestrial organismal sampling with tower sensor measurementssoil sensor measurements and sampling, and airborne remote sensing data, to support ecosystem level characterization of processes and conditions, such as carbon cycling, biodiversity and ecosystem productivity. Where logistically possible, NEON colocates aquatic sites with terrestrial sites to support understanding of linkages across atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Key organismal sampling data

NEON field technicians regularly sample and observe organisms at field sites and collect relevant data including:

  • Species abundance and density
  • Community composition and diversity
  • Phenology of plants and mosquitoes
  • Organism size and other trait data
  • Leaf area index
  • Canopy chemical composition
  • Litterfall (i.e., dead plant material, such as leaves, bark, needles, and twigs)
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