About Field Sites
The Jornada LTER (JORN) terrestrial NEON field site is located about 40 km (24.9 mi.) from Las Cruces, New Mexico in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, the largest desert in North America. NEON samples approximately 45.7 km2 (11,293 acres) on the Jornada Experimental Range, which is managed by the USDA and New Mexico State University. NEON research at this site happens alongside two other ecological monitoring groups: the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The region is dominated by arid grasslands and desert shrubs. JORN is encompassed within NEON's Desert Southwest Domain (D14). D14 has one other terrestrial field site and one aquatic field site. JORN is not colocated with an aquatic site.  
The Jornada Experimental Range has a desert climate. It is very sunny with very little humidity, making for extreme differences in day and night temperatures. Summers are very hot and winters that are relatively mild. Freezing temperatures can be common in winter. The little precipitation that occurs in this region does so in either gentle winter rains from December to February, or in intense convective thunderstorms during the summer monsoon from July to September. The mean annual temperature is 15.7°C (60°F), and the mean annual precipitation is 271.2 mm (10.7 in.). 
The geology at Jornada is characteristic of the Upper Santa Fe Group, which contains clastic sediments and other unconsolidated material. 
Soils at Jornada are typical of desert soils. All have low organic content with little to no organic horizon, have a high lime content, and have a caliche layer at the water percolation depth that prevents root penetration by plants. The soils are very sandy and little difference is seen in the content of surface soils when compared to subsoils. Many soils at the site are part of the subgroup Typic Petrocalcids. 
The Jornada site is located on a closed plain with no external outlet for water drainage. Because of this, water sometimes accumulates on the surface of the playas. 
Vegetation cover at Jornada is dominated by desert scrub and grassland. Large upland areas that were formerly dominated by perennial grasses, including black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda) and mesa drop seed (Sporobolus ﬂexuosus), have been replaced by desert shrubland species, in particular creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) and honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa). 
The Jornada site is home to many spectacular desert-adapted animals including badgers (Taxidea taxus) and banner tailed kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis). One of the most striking species is the oryx (Oryx gazelle gazelle). 95 of these large antelope were introduced to the nearby San Andres Wildlife refuge from 1969 to 1977 for the purposes of hunting. Native to the arid regions of Southern Africa, these aggressive antelope compete with native bighorn and deer for forage and potentially harbor disease that can devastate the native ungulate population.  
Past Land Management and Use
At the end of the 19th century, rangelands across the arid West were in serious decline. This led to the establishment of several long-term agricultural research sites to study how to best manage livestock on arid grasslands. Built from the scattered holdings of a private land owner, Charles T. Turney, the Jornada Experimental Range was established by Presidential Executive Order in 1912 specifically to study the long-term effects of grazing in arid grasslands. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, data collected at the Jornada Experimental Range was instrumental in showing how desertification and woody shrub encroachment occurs. Scientists found that when arid grasslands are replaced with arid shrublands, a positive feedback cascade of nutrient loss and hydrological changes occurs, creating more disturbed, heterogeneous landscapes that encourage further encroachment by woody shrubs. 
Current Land Management and Use
Currently hosted by the USDA Agricultural Research Service in partnership with New Mexico State University, the Jornada Experimental Range’s research goals have broadened from an animal management focus to include large scale ecosystem services. Scientists at the Jornada study important ecosystem functions of the desert, such as dust movement and reseeding of native vegetation. Bordering the Jornada Experimental Range is the White Sands Missile Range where the United States military extensively tests new weapons. Within the borders of the White Sands Missile Range is the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge, designated an important bird area by the Audubon Society. It is one of the few places in the Chihuahuan Desert that has not been grazed in the last 50 years and has one of the only riparian areas in a vast desert spread between the Rio Grande and the Sacramento Mountains, making it an important stop for migrating birds. The site is also designated an UNESCO biosphere reserve.    
NEON Site Establishment
Plot establishment for JORN began May 2015 with sampling commencing by September 2015. Construction on the tower began in 2013 and TIS sampling was able to begin by August 2014. 
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 14. NEON.DOC.003897vA
 Havstad, K. M. (2011). ARS Long-Term Agro-Ecosystem Research Network Response to Request for Information Candidate Site: Jornada Experimental Range, Dona Ana County, New Mexico.
 Rango, A., Havstad, K., & Estell, R. (2011). The Utilization of Historical Data and Geospatial Technology Advances at the Jornada Experimental Range to Support Western America Ranching Culture. Remote Sensing
 U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service. (2007). Environmental Assessment/Assessment of Effect Opening for Hunting of Exotic Oryx San Andres National Wildlife Refuge
 White Sands Missile Test Area: https://www.wsmr.army.mil/Pages/home.aspx
 Audubon Society Important Bird Area: https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas/san-andres-national-wildli…
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 Four-wing Salt Bush: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/atriplex_canescens…
 Gibbens, R. P. (1981). The Jornada Experimental Biosphere Reserve.
 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 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 are collected by a tipping bucket at the top of the tower and a series of throughfalls located in the soil array.
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.
USDA-Agricultural Research Service
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
SRER encourages research activities that do not conflict with on-going research. Researchers should apply directly for a site research permit. All proposed actions will be reviewed for potential impacts to cultural resources, endangered species and other research activities.
NEON Field Operations Office
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
Upper Santa Fe Group
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Clastic rock and unconsolidated material
USGS Geology Age
Middle Pleistocene to uppermost Miocene
Megapit Soil Family
Coarse, loamy, mixed, superactive, thermicc. Typic Petrocalcids.
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