Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed NEON / BONA
Core Terrestrial, AK, D19:
About Field Sites
BONA is a terrestrial NEON field site located in central Alaska, northeast of Fairbanks, AK. It is in the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed and contained within the Bonanza Creek LTER research area. The land at the Bonanza Creek LTER site is managed by the University of Alaska and has been set aside for scientific study. Parts of the NEON site also overlap land managed by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The 49.6 km2 (12,300 acre) site features a mix of hardwood forest, shrubland, wetlands, and scattered permafrost. The Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed spans an elevation of 200 - 773 m (650 - 2500 ft.), with valleys and steep mountains within the watershed. BONA is one of four NEON sites (three terrestrial and one aquatic) in the Alaskan Taiga Domain (D19), which comprises Alaska’s interior and the Alaska Peninsula. It is colocated with the aquatic site CARI.  
The mean annual temperature for BONA is -3°C (26°F). Mean annual precipitation is 262 mm (10.3 in.), 30% of which can be snowfall. Temperatures can vary widely over the course of a day. The annual temperature variation also spans from -50°C (-58°F) to 33°C (91°F). Generally, precipitation and humidity in the area is low. Below-freezing temperatures can persist from the months of October through April in nearby Fairbanks, Alaska. However, temperature measurements starting in 1981 through the present day show deviations from historic daily average temperatures that are hotter than usual, particularly in winter months. Thawing permafrost in Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed has undergone recordable losses and is an important research component within the watershed, as are wildfire disturbances. Alaska is affected by climate change patterns, with around 2.5°C (4.5°F) of warming experienced since around 1948.    
Birch Creek Schist is the dominant bedrock type at BONA. Quartzite is also found here, and aeolian silts derived from the Tanana Flats overlay the area.  
Soils within BONA are typically silty alluvium and colluvium materials, with layers of permafrost on the surface. Gilmore silt loam, Typic Cryochrepts and Histic Pergelic Cryaquepts are some of the major soil types within the site. The soils within BONA are affected by the cycle of ice thawing and freezing, resulting in cryoturbation (). 
The Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed is characterized as a typical upland headwater stream basin in subarctic Alaska. During peak melt times, the discharge in Caribou Creek can reach upwards of 1000 liters per second. Key hydro-biological research topics conducted in CPCRW include how permafrost thaws and how wildfires affect fresh water stream ecology. 
The BONA area contains areas of permafrost, hardwood forest, wetlands, and shrublands. Moss covers patches of permafrost throughout the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed area. The hydrology and drainage of the area influences dominant vegetation types, with areas of poor drainage dominated by moss, sedge, and shrub species. Evergreen forest constitutes the majority of land area within the site. Black spruce (Picea mariana), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), and bog Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) are some dominant species. 
The threatened wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) was historically present in the Taiga region; in recent years, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have worked toward reintroducing populations in Alaska. The endangered Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis) is possibly present in the CARI and BONA sites [Project 34 spreadsheet]. It is possibly extinct, given its lack of appearance in surveys over the past few decades.  
Past Land Management and Use
The Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed was established in part to address the need to study Alaskan hydrological processes. The city of Fairbanks, Alaska flooded in 1967, leading to increased attention toward hydrology in the area. In 1969, the Inter-Agency Technical Committee for Alaska established the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed, an area representative of subarctic hydrological conditions. Eventually, the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed became managed as a part of the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research site, which was established in 1987.
Levels of human activity in the watershed have changed multiple times in the past century. The land around the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed is traditionally the territory of the Tanana people. Historically, Tanana people formed nomadic family groups that traveled along the Tanana River. The arrival of Euro-Americans in the region caused upheaval in their way of life; however, Tanana people today remain connected to the region around the Tanana River. From approximately 1905-1930, there was some resource-extractive economic activity by Euro-American settlers. By 1940-1970, mineral prospecting and logging was not prevalent in the area. There is evidence that the 1901 arrival of prospectors in the area of the Caribou-Poker Creeks Experimental Watershed affected the landscape. A study of historical fires in the Caribou-Poker Creeks Experimental Watershed revealed that the watershed experienced a series of fires between 1896 and 1925, which the study authors noted coincided with the historical period of prospecting and mining in the area, suggesting some of these fires may have originated in human activity. More recently, the watershed experienced a fire in 2004.      
Current Land Management and Use
The NEON BONA site lies within the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed (CPCRW), which is a watershed within Bonanza Creek LTER, an area managed for scientific study by the University of Alaska. Scientific research is the only human activity currently being conducted in the CPCRW. Scientific data has been collected in CPCRW from as far back as the 1970s. Encompassing 104 km2 (25,700 acres), the CPCRW provides a valuable area for researchers to study how watersheds are influenced by wildfires, discontinuous permafrost, and climate change. In particular, climate change-driven risk of wildfires is a management concern that Bonanza Creek LTER that researchers have worked to better understand with the help of indigenous communities and fire managers. The Working Group on Rural Alaska Self-Reliance was formed with Bonanza Creek LTER researchers and Alaskan indigenous leaders to address management strategies to sustain ecological and social livelihoods in the face of climate change.    
NEON Site Establishment
To establish the TOS distributed plots at BONA, National Land Cover Database data was used to fulfill a stratified-random plot design. Plots were also selected to be spatially balanced around the NEON tower. Sampling readiness review was completed in June 2017. Terrestrial sampling began in June 2017. Construction of the 19 m (30 ft.) tower at BONA was completed by 2017, and it came online in November 2017.  
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 19. NEON.DOC.003902vB.
 Jones, Jeremy. 2017. Study Sites & Design: Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed. Retrieved from http://www.lter.uaf.edu/research/study-sites-cpcrw.
 Alaska Climatology, 2017. The Alaska Climate Research Center. Retrieved from: http://akclimate.org/Climate
 Mulligan, Dennis. 2018. NEON Site-Level Plot Summary: Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed. USDA.
 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information’s (NCEI) 1981-2010 climate normals (NCEI 2015).
 Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved May 11, 2020 from https://www.fws.gov/alaska/pages/endangered-species/wood-bison
 Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved May 11, 2020 from https://www.fws.gov/alaska/pages/endangered-species/eskimo-curlew
 Climate. University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Retrieved May 11, 2020 from http://www.lter.uaf.edu/boreal-forest/climate
 Study Sites & Design: Regional Site Network. University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Retrieved May 15, 2020 from http://www.lter.uaf.edu/research/study-sites-regional
 Driscoll, Charles & Lambert, Kathleen & Chapin III, F Stuart & Nowak, David & Spies, Thomas & Swanson, Frederick & Kittredge, David & Hart, Clarisse. (2012). Science and Society: The Role of Long-Term Studies in Environmental Stewardship. BioScience. 62. 354-366. 10.1525/bio.2012.62.4.7.
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 Interagency Arctic Research Coordinating Committee, National Science Foundation. 1973. Arctic Bulletin. University of Michigan. Digitized October 23, 2013. Retrieved May 18 from https://books.google.com/books?id=WriAkSpg-9MC&pg=RA5-PA184&lpg=RA5-PA1….
 Hilgert, Jerry & Slaughter, Charles. Water Quality and Streamflow in the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed, Central Alaska, 1979. Forest Service. Retrieved on May 18, 2020 from https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_rn463.pdf
 Bonanza Creek LTER – United States of America. 2020. DEIMS-SDR. Retrieved on May 18, 2020 from https://deims.org/2537a071-ded4-4810-a36e-9ad1abf188b9
 Fastie, C. L., Lloyd, A. H., & Doak, P. (2002). Fire history and postfire forest development in an upland watershed of interior Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 107(D1), FFR-6.
 Tanana. June 5, 2018. Native Land. Retrieved 20 May, 2020 from https://native-land.ca/maps/territories/tanana/
 Terry L. Haynes and William E. Simeone (2007). Upper Tanana ethnographic overview and assessment, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Subsistence. Retrieved 20 May, 2020 from https://www.nps.gov/ethnography/research/docs/UpperTananaEOA.pdf
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a flux/meteorological tower that is 19 m (62 ft) tall with five measurement levels. The tower top extends above the vegetation canopy to allow sensors mounted at the top and along the tower to capture the full profile of atmospheric conditions from the top of the vegetation canopy to the ground. The tower collects physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, and net ecosystem gas exchange. Precipitation data are collected by a Double Fence Intercomparison Reference (DFIR) near the tower and a series of throughfalls located in the soil array.
Soil Sensor Measurements
This site has five soil plots placed in an array within the airshed of the flux tower. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at soil surface, soil heat flux, solar radiation, and throughfall are measured at the soil surface in each soil plot. Soil moisture, soil temperature, and CO2 concentration are measured at multiple depths in each soil plot.
At terrestrial sites, field ecologists observe birds and plants, and sample ground beetles, mosquitoes, small mammals, soil microbes, and ticks. Lab analyses are carried out to provide further data on DNA sequences, pathogens, soils, sediments, and biogeochemistry. Learn more about terrestrial observations or explore this site's data products.
Field Site Data
University of Alaska
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
NEON site is colocated with Boreal LTER. Please allow extra lead time (3-6 months prior to planned start) for coordination requirements; coordinate with site manager
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
NEON Field Operations Office
Domain 18/19 Support Facility
NEON Field Operations Address
3352 College Rd.
Fairbanks, AK 99709
NEON Field Operations Phone
Fairbanks North Star
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant Wind Direction
Mean Canopy Height
Dominant NLCD Classes
Deciduous Forest, Evergreen Forest, Mixed Forest, Woody Wetlands
Average number of green days
Average first greenness increase date
Average peak green date
Average first greenness decrease date
Average minimum greenness date
Number of Tower Levels
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
Unconsolidated and poorly consolidated surficial deposits
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Alluvial, colluvial, marine, lacustrine, eolian, and swamp deposits
USGS Geology Age
Quaternary (1.806 to 0 Ma)
Megapit Soil Family
Coarse-silty, mixed, superactive, subgelic. Typic Histoturbels.
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