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NEON Sampling Boundaries
Tower Airshed Boundary
This map depicts the spatial layout of this field site. Please note that some locations may have moved over time due to logistics, safety and science requirements.
This map was updated on January 11, 2019
Construction Status for this Site
The Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER) is located at the western edge of the Pawnee National Grasslands in Colorado, 19 kilometers northeast of Nunn, Colorado. The elevation ranges between 1,500-1,700 meters.
Site history & management
CPER includes 6,300 hectares of undulating rangeland. Large herbivores such as cattle (and previously, bison), and burrowing animals such as the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) play dominant roles in ecosystem function and maintenance. CPER retains most of the features representative of pre-settlement conditions, with large native herbivores. CPER is influenced by contemporary land-use practices, such as agriculture and cattle grazing.
Total data products planned for this site: 113
Site Host & Access Site Host:
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, LTER
Is additional non-NEON research allowed at this site?:
Yes, non-NEON research activities are allowed in this area. Researchers must obtain their own permits with the site host(s).
Site Characteristics Latitude/Longitude:40.81553, -104.7456 Elevation:1648 m Mean Annual Temperature:8C/46.4F Mean Annual Precipitation:370 mm Dominant NLCD Classes:
NEON collects a standard suite of data at CPER; however, data collected at this site serves as a benchmark for exploring the causes and consequences of environmental change taking place throughout the grasslands of the Central Plains Domain, with results relevant to arid and semi-arid grassland ecosystems worldwide. Overall, the Front Range of Colorado is growing at 3 times the national average with the population expected to surpass 5.7 million by 2030. Conversion of native vegetation to urban and suburban landscapes drastically alters biological diversity, reduces soil organic matter and alters the temporal and spatial distribution of plant biomass.
The dominant vegetation at CPER is moderately grazed Shortgrass steppe. The biotic communities of the Shortgrass steppe ecosystem are well adapted for drought; other vegetative species include blue grama (
Bouteloua gracilis) and prickly-pear cactus ( Opuntia polyacantha). CPER represents grassland communities across multiple domains and a range of climatic regions.
Laramie formation, shales and claystone (with minor sandstone lenses). Cretaceous.
USGS HUC: h10190008
Dominant Phenology Species:
Bouteloua gracilis, Thelesperma filifolium, Hesperostipa comata
Mean Canopy Height:
The mean canopy height is 0.4 m.
Fine, loamy, mixed, superactive, mesic. Aridic Argiustolls.
The dominant wind direction is northwest.
Data Collection Types
Airborne Remote Sensing Surveys
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
The flux/meteorological tower at this site is 26’ with 4 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.
This site has one phenocam on the top of the flux tower and one near the bottom of the tower.
Soil Sensor Measurements
This site has five soil plots placed in an array within the airshed of the flux tower. The following measurements may be collected at the soil surface in each soil plot:
Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at soil surface
Soil heat flux
The following measurements are collected at multiple depths in each soil plot:
Field ecologists collect the following types of observational data at this site:
Other Domain 10 Field Sites
Relocatable Terrestrial | Colorado
Distance: 56 mi.
Relocatable Terrestrial | Colorado
Distance: 93 mi.
Core Aquatic | Wadeable Stream | Colorado
Distance: 141 mi.
Colocated Research Organizations
USDA Agricultural Research Service - Central Great Plains Research Center
Field Operations Office
1685 38th Street, Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301