About Field Sites
Como Creek (COMO) is an aquatic NEON field site located in the Rocky Mountains in north-central Colorado, about 89 km (55 mi.) northwest of Denver. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, this area has remained relatively undisturbed for the past 50 years with no development, logging, or fire in the 4.9 km2 (1211 acre) watershed. Snowmelt dominates the hydrologic and nutrient flux in this system. COMO is home to the threatened greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkia stomias), which spawns in the creek, and thus walking in the stream is prohibited during certain times of the year. Willows line the stream bank and the canopy consists of aspen, spruce, and lodgepole pine. At COMO, NEON works alongside many other research parties including the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research Station and the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory. COMO is part of NEON's Southern Rockies and Colorado Plateau Domain (D13). D13 has one other aquatic site and two terrestrial sites. COMO is colocated with the terrestrial site Niwot Ridge Mountain Research Station (NIWO). 
COMO is located in the Southern Rockies, which have a climate characterized by the drastic changes in elevation, leading to dramatic differences in precipitation and temperature over very short distances. In general, precipitation decreases and temperature increases with a decrease in elevation. COMO lies at an elevation of over 3000 m (9842 ft.), and consequently it experiences cold and long winters with snow cover lasting from October through June. Freezing temperatures are possible year-round. Snow is the main form of precipitation; however, the area receives a large amount of precipitation in the summer from afternoon thunderstorms. Humidity is generally low. The mean annual temperature 2°C (35.6°F) at COMO and the mean annual precipitation is 841 mm (33 in.).  
The geology at this site is characteristic of schist, migmatite, and biotitic gneiss. 
The watershed surrounding COMO has generally thin soils overlying a parent material of granite. 
Snowmelt dominates the hydrologic and nutrient flux in this 4.9 km2 (1211 acre) watershed. Peak streamflow occurs in the summer (June) of each year and sharply declines throughout late summer. Discharge remains very low through the winter months. While weather systems from across the continental divide are the most common source of precipitation, spring and early summer thunderstorms can also contribute to the flow of the creek.  
The surrounding area is dominated by conifers including lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), limber pine (Pinus flexilis), and Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii). Aspen trees (Populus tremuloids) can also be found in the area.  
Aquatic organisms collected at this site include aquatic microbes, macroinvertebrates, microalgae, macroalgae, and plants.
Past Land Management and Use
The area has experienced multiple ecological disturbances throughout history, including stand-replacing fires, episodic insect outbreaks, and occasional wind damage. In the early 1900s the logging industry clear cut the forest. The area is encompassed within Niwot Ridge, which was established as a site in the NSF sponsored Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program in 1980. 
Current Land Management and Use
COMO is part of the Niwot Ridge Biosphere Reserve and Experimental Ecology Reserve within the Roosevelt National Forest. The land is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. This area has an active history of ecological research, including the Niwot Ridge LTER which is administered through the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.  
NEON Site Establishment
COMO was established as a site in 2015. AOS operations began December 2015 with AIS operations starting 2 years later. The nearby tower began data collection in 2017.
 Aquatic Instrument System (AIS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 13. NEON.DOC.002068vB
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 Lewis & Grant (1979). Changes in the Output of Ions from a Watershed as a Result of the Acidification of Precipitation
 PRISM Climate Group., Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
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 the 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.
Field Site Data
US Forest Service
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
Reseachers should coordinate with the site manager and submit a site research permit.
NEON Field Operations Office
NEON Field Operations Address
1685 38th Street, Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant NLCD Classes
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
Biotitic gneiss, schist, and migmatite
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Biotitic gneiss, schist, and migmatite
USGS Geology Age
Other Domain D13 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in CO