About Field Sites
The Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER) is a terrestrial NEON field site located in Weld County on the Western boundary of the Pawnee National Grasslands in Colorado. This 65.4 km2 (16,160 acre) site is 120 km (75.5 mi.) north of Denver with an elevation around 1600 m (5249 ft.). The land is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. CPER is part of NEON's Central Plains Domain (D10). D10 has two other terrestrial field sites and one aquatic field site. CPER is not colocated with an aquatic site. 
The Central Plains region is known for dry, hot summers and cold winters. Weather can change drastically in a short period of time. The combination of high elevation and mountain ranges are what mainly drives this region’s climate. At the NEON site at CPER the mean annual temperature is 8.6°C (47.5°F) and the mean annual precipitation is 344.2 mm (13.6 in.). The area can be subject to tornados, flooding, blizzards, and severe winter storms.   
The major geologic formation at the Central Plains Experimental Range is the Laramie formation, containing shales and claystone with minor sandstone lenses. 
The soil subgroup found at CPER is aridic argiustolls. The major soil series on the site include Vona, Ascalon, Renohill, Terry, Haverson, Nunn, Cascajo, Avar, Olney, Tassel, Playas, Shingle, Manter, and Bankard. 
Open water only makes up 0.01 km2 (2.5 acres) or 0.02% of the total land cover at NEON's CPER site. The land is dominated by herbaceous grasslands which covers 62.67 km2 (15,486 acres) or 98.5% of the total land cover at the site. 
The dominant vegetation at CPER is moderately grazed shortgrass steppe. Dominant plant species include blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides), and plains prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha). 
The Pawnee National Grasslands is a unique ecosystem. Birds including the Colorado state bird the lark bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys), mountain plover (Charadrius montanus), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), and various birds of prey can be found in the area. Mammals including the proghorn (Antilocapra americana), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), coyote (Canis latrans), and swift fox (Vulpes velox) are also commonly found in the great plains of Colorado. AT CPER, NEON collects data on beetles, mosquitoes, ticks, birds, and small mammals.  
Past Land Management and Use
CPER has a long history of research. Grazing and soil erosion studies that started in the 1930s are still underway. CPER served as part of the of the Shortgrass Steppe LTER from 1982-2014. Cattle and burrowing animals such as the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) play dominant roles in ecosystem function and maintenance. NEON TOS Plots were allocated across the site following NEON standard criteria and to avoid existing research.  
Current Land Management and Use
The land is managed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The mission of the ARS is to study agricultural issues in the U.S. ARS is active in the science community - it participates in 600 research projects within 15 national programs and conducts research at over 90 research locations, including work outside of the U.S. 
NEON Site Establishment
Plots were established at NEON's CPER site in December 2014. In March 2014 the site went under a sampling readiness review. TOS sampling began at the site in October 2014. The TIS tower also was completed in 2014 and began collecting data that year.
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 10. NEON.DOC.003883vB
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
[3 PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004
 Hazlett, Donald L. 1998. Vascular Plant Species of The Pawnee National Grassland. General Technical Report RMRS-GTR -17. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 26 p.
 Central Plains Experimental Range, 2017. United States Department of Agriculture: Rangeland Resources and Systems Research . Retrieved from: https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains -area/fort-collins-co/center-for-agricultural- resources-research/rangeland-resources-systems -research/docs/rrsr/central-plains-experimental- research-location/
 Steinert, Andy. (2016). NEON Site-Level Plot Summary: Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER), August 2016.
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 8 m (26 ft) tall with four 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 may be collected by a tipping bucket at the top of the tower, a Double Fence Intercomparison Reference (DFIR) near the tower.
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
USDA-Agricultural Research Service
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
Reseachers should coordinate with the site manager.
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 Wind Direction
Mean Canopy Height
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
Number of Tower Levels
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Shale, claystone, and sandstone with some coal
USGS Geology Age
Megapit Soil Family
Fine, loamy, mixed, superactive, mesic. Aridic Argiustolls.
Other Domain D10 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in CO