About Field Sites
Onaqui (ONAQ) is a terrestrial NEON field site located in Tooele County, UT, approximately 80 km (50 mi.) southwest of Salt Lake City. It consists of a sampling area of 68 km2 (15,300 acres) and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It is characterized by the sagebrush and western juniper community that dominates the Great Basin. The site is part of NEON's Great Basin Domain (D15), which is bordered by the Sierra Nevada to the west, the Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau to the east, the Mojave Desert to the south, and the Columbia Plateau to the north. D15 has one other field site, the aquatic site REDB.  
ONAQ is characterized by an arid and warm climate with little precipitation, hot summers, and cool winters. During any season, large diurnal temperature swings are common. The Sierra Nevadas and the Rocky Mountains block moisture from the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, resulting in a very dry climate at ONAQ. The mean annual temperature at ONAQ is 9°C (48°F). The mean annual precipitation at ONAQ is 288mm (11.3 in.).  
The geology at this site is characteristic of alluvium and colluvium derived from Paleozoic age limestone and quartzite.  
Taylorsflat, Onaqui, Onaqui taxadjunct, Sterling, Sevy, Strevell, Benning taxadjunct, Borvant taxadjunct, and Jardal soils are the series that are encountered at the site. They are located on fan remnants and mountain slopes. 
Onaqui is situated in the Rush-Tooele Valleys Watershed. The site is immediately east of Faust Creek. Faust Creek has a drainage area of 376 km2 (145 sq. mi.), an annual discharge of 7606 cfs, and peak stream flow of 22 cfs.  
The eastern half of the site is dominated by Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). Along the base of the Onaqui Mountains the vegetation transitions into Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) and Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis) woodland. 
Some of the fauna present at this site include pronghorn (Antilocapra Americana), coyote (Canis latrans), jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii), common sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus), Great-Basin rattlesnake (Crotalus lutosus), and midget faded rattlesnake (Crotalus concolor). NEON provides data on small mammals, birds, ticks, mosquitoes, and ground beetles. Small mammal species commonly sampled include Great Basin pocket mouse (Perognathus parvus), Ord's kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ordii), and chisel-toothed kangaroo rat (Dipodomys microps). 
Past Land Management and Use
The Onaqui site is on the traditional territory of the Goshute people, who lived on the delicate desert environment. Mormons moved into Tooele Valley by 1855, resulting in conflict as competition for resources in the desert arose. By 1869, most Goshute had settled to Deep Creek and Skull Valley and ranches, mills, mines, and the Pony Express traversed the area.
In 1946, the General Land Office merged with the Grazing Service to become the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the current host of the D15 Onaqui site. The BLM has a multi-use approach to management with "create a conservation stewardship legacy" listed as a top priority.  
Current Land Management and Use
ONAQ is located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM has a multiple-use approach to land management, as outlined in Resource Management Plans, prepared in accordance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. This site is located within the BLM's Onaqui Herd Management Area, where wild horses have roamed since the late 1800s. The land is also used for recreation, hunting, and grazing.  
NEON Site Establishment
A sampling readiness review was conducted in May 2014. Plot establishment at Onaqui commenced August 2014. Terrestrial Observation Systems (TOS) operations started December 2014 and Terrestrial Instrumentation Systems (TIS) operations started April 2017.
 Lewis, Randy. (2017). NEON Site-Level Plot Summary, Onaqui Site (ONAQ), July 201. https://data.neonscience.org/documents/10179/2361410/ONAQ_Soil_SiteSumm…
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 15. NEON.DOC.003898vB.
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 Terrestrial Instrument System (TIS, FIU) Site Characterization Supporting Data: Domain 15. NEON.DOC.011043vC.
 Rissler, Eric, et al. (2016). NEON Site-Specific EHS Plan: D15C ONAQ.
 PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
 Western Regional Climate Center https://wrcc.dri.edu/narratives/UTAH.htm#:~:text=In%20summer%20northwes….
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 and 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, and solar radiation 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
Bureau of Land Management
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
Reseachers should coordinate with the site manager and submit a site research permit.
NEON Field Operations Office
Domain 15 Support Facility
NEON Field Operations Address
2992 South Main Street
South Salt Lake City, UT 84115
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Dominant Wind Direction
Mean Canopy Height
Dominant NLCD Classes
Evergreen Forest, Shrub/Scrub
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
Alluvium and colluvium
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Alluvium and colluvium
USGS Geology Age
Megapit Soil Family
Fine, loamy, mixed, superactive, mesic. Xeric Haplocalcids.
Related Field Sites
Other Domain D15 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in UT