Southern Rockies & Colorado Plateau
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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 Niwot Ridge sits approximately 27 km west of Boulder, Colorado, and 6 km east of the Continental Divide. Topography, climate, and biota of the site are representative of Rocky Mountain alpine ecosystems, including extensive alpine tundra (mostly herbs, some shrubs and scree) and subalpine coniferous forests (Abies lasciocarpa and Picea engelmanii at higher elevations), talus slopes, wetlands and a variety of glacial landforms.
The site is accessible to the public, is home to the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research project, and is heavily used by researchers. Research themes include the movement of energy and nutrients across the subalpine-alpine landscape, the influence of nitrogen deposition on ecosystems and hydrology, and the influence of climate on diversity and ecosystem function. Alpine plants and animals survive on the edge of environmental tolerances, making them especially sensitive to changes in climate. Changes in the timing, form, and seasonality of precipitation as well as changes in drought frequency and intensity will alter ecosystem structure and function, ultimately leading to changes in species distributions.
High altitude aquatic ecosystems are responsive to external drivers of change, especially climate change and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen. The Niwot Ridge terrestrial site is collocated with NEON’s D13 core aquatic site, Como Creek, situated at an elevation of 3,030 m in the subalpine.
Total data products planned for this site: 117
Site Host & Access Site Host:
University of Colorado at Boulder, U.S. Forest 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:40.05425, -105.58237 Elevation:3513 m Mean Annual Temperature:0C/32F Mean Annual Precipitation:758 mm Dominant NLCD Classes:
Characterized by cold and relatively long winters, Niwot Ridge has an average annual temperature of 1.5°C and average annual precipitation of 800 mm. Most precipitation falls as snow and summer precipitation falls primarily during afternoon thunderstorms. Located on the eastern side of the Continental Divide at 3,000-3,500 m elevation, the site best captures chemical inputs produced along the Front Range and is well situated to observe other east/west flows across the Southern Rockies in conjunction with other NEON sites.
Schist, migmatite, and biotitic gneiss. Paleoproterozoic.
USGS HUC: h10190005
Dominant Phenology Species:
Geum rossii var. turbinatum, Minuartia obtusiloba, Carex rupestris var.
Mean Canopy Height:
The mean canopy height is 0.2 m.
Coarse, loamy, mixed, superactive. Typic Haplocryolls.
The dominant wind direction is west-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, and 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 13 Field Sites
Core Aquatic | Wadeable Stream | Colorado
Distance: 2 mi.
Relocatable Aquatic | Wadeable Stream | Colorado
Distance: 21 mi.
Relocatable Terrestrial | Utah
Distance: 239 mi.
Colocated Research Organizations
Field Operations Office
1685 38th Street, Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301