February 28, 2007 An initial group of 20 candidate core sites across the United States has been selected. A technical review committee of NEON senior staff and colleagues from the ecological research community participated in the selection process in Boulder, Colorado, 11-16 February 2007.
The Observatory will gather long-term data on ecological responses of the biosphere to changes in land use and climate, and on feedbacks with the geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The NEON observing strategy is based on a systematic sampling across the largest scales of ecological variability in order to “scale up” analyses across the nation. The core wildland sites form the stable, fixed elements of Observatory design.
NEON partitions the United States into 20 ecoclimatic domains using a statistical analysis of eco-climatic variables and wind vectors. Each domain hosts one fully instrumented NEON core site, as well as a variety of relocatable instrument systems. Relocatable tower systems will expand measurements of environmental variability along elevation, precipitation, or land-use gradients. Rapid deployment systems (instruments on vehicles or towed by vehicles) will be used to study sudden events on the landscape, such as wildfires, natural catastrophes, or the emergence of an invasive species or disease outbreak.
Site decisions of the NEON technical review committee were informed by detailed responses of the ecological community to a Request for Information, and by a formal RFI evaluation panel convened by the National Science Foundation at the US Geological Survey’s EROS (Earth Resources Observation and Science) Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, during the week of 5 February 2007. Preliminary site visits are now underway that will enable NEON to further evaluate the scientific and logistical issues associated with the 20 proposed locations.