NEON’s Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) tower stands 12 km south of Estes Park, Colorado, representing a growing mosaic of urban and exurban areas. While the property is owned by RMNP it is not contiguous with the core park boundaries.
As a mid-elevation site (2,750 m) on the east side of the Continental Divide, the site is aptly situated to investigate the chemical climate (i.e., pollution) generated along the Front Range as well as dust deposition produced and transported from the Great Basin to higher elevations. This is a particularly salient issue given recent estimates which project that an additional two million residents will inhabit the Front Range in twenty years.
Conversion of native vegetation to urban and suburban landscapes drastically alters biological diversity, reduces soil organic matter, and alters the distribution of plant biomass over time and space. Yet little is known about the ecosystem processes (e.g., carbon fluxes, nutrient dynamics) associated with residential land cover within this domain. As such, NEON has intentionally positioned the tower adjacent to the Clean Air Status and Trends Network site, 300 m towards the north, which is hosted by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service along with numerous other Federal, local, tribal and university partners.
The site receives an average of 532 mm of precipitation annually, holds an average annual high temperature of 12.0°C and an average annual low temperature of -3.4°C. Elk (Cervus Canadensis) frequent the area under the mixed pine forest canopy of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides).