About Field Sites
CARI is an aquatic NEON field site located at the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed (CPCRW) in central Alaska, northeast of Fairbanks, AK. CARI is a 2nd order wadeable stream contained within the Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) research area and CPCRW, encompassing 104 km2 (25,700 acres). 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. CPCRW spans an elevation of 200 - 773 m (650 - 2500 ft.), with valleys and steep mountains within the watershed. CARI 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 terrestrial site BONA.  
The mean annual temperature for CARI 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 CARI. Quartzite is also found here, and aeolian silts derived from the Tanana Flats overlay the area.  
Soils within CARI 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 CARI are affected by the cycle of ice thawing and freezing, resulting in cryoturbation (mixing of materials from various soil horizons down to the bedrock). 
The Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed is characterized as a typical upland headwater stream basin in subarctic Alaska. Snowmelt is crucial to the flow of Caribou Creek, with winter freezing stopping flow through the system and peak flow during the spring. Caribou Creek’s channel is 1 - 5 m (3 - 16 ft.) wide. 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 CARI 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. Alder, willow, and dwarf birch around 2 - 3 m (6 - 10 ft.) tall grow directly along the banks of the Caribou Creek channel. Moss, lichen, blueberry, willow, and shrubs grow along the channel as well, and some black spruce trees can be found in the area.  
Some of the fish found in the Caribou Creek include slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus) and Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus). Macroinvertebrates in Caribou Creek include small minnow mayflies (Baetis bicaudatus), midges (Eukiefferiella), flathead mayflies (Cinygmula), and detritus worms (Naididae). 
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, AK 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 CARI 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
Sampling readiness review for CARI was completed in June 2017. Aquatic observation systems were established in September 2016, and aquatic instrumentation systems were established in October 2017. During the construction of wells and other infrastructure, minimally invasive infrastructure was preferred. Likewise, to minimize disturbance to the site during maintenance and data collection, paths, boardwalks, and foot bridges were planned along the site. Due to the yearly freezing of Caribou Creek, aquatic sensors are removed to prevent damage in the winter.   
 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.
 NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network). 2020. Data Product NEON.D19.CARI.DP1.20107.001, Fish electrofishing, gill netting, and fyke netting counts. Provisional data downloaded from http://data.neonscience.org on July 16, 2020.
 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
 NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network). 2020. Data Product DP1.20048.001, Stream discharge field collection. Provisional data downloaded from http://data.neonscience.org on May 22, 2020.
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 Aquatic Instrument System (AIS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 19. NEON.DOC.001373vB
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a meteorological station located in the riparian area. The met station is outfitted with a subset of the same sensors used at terrestrial sites. Measurements include wind speed and direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity, shortwave radiation, and PAR.
A phenocam is pointed toward the land-water interface of the site. Here we show the images from the most recent hour. The full collection of images can be viewed on the Phenocam Gallery - click on the image below.
Field Site Data
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
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
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 NLCD Classes
Average number of green days
Average first greenness increase date
Average peak green date
Average first greenness decrease date
Average minimum greenness date
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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