OPS 3-3
NEON soil pits: Characterizing and archiving soil properties across the continent

Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Exhibit Hall, Baltimore Convention Center
Rommel C. Zulueta, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Boulder, CO
Edward Ayres, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Boulder, CO
Joshua A. Roberti, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Boulder, CO
Derek E. Smith, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Boulder, CO
David J. Durden, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Boulder, CO
Michael Denslow, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Boulder, CO

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a continental-scale research platform currently in construction and consists of geographically distributed and networked connected infrastructure designed to assess the causes of ecological change and biological responses to change across a projected 30-year timeframe.  An integrated suite of standardized sensor-based measurements and in-situ field sampling and observations will be conducted across 20 eco-climatic domains in the U.S. where NEON is establishing 60 terrestrial research sites.  

During construction, NEON has been characterizing soils at each site via soil mega-pits to inform the placement of NEON’s soil-based sensors.  These sensors will monitor profiles of soil temperature, moisture, heat flux, as well as root turnover and soil respiration.  Site specific soil characterizations maximize the accuracy of the soil-based measurements, improve the understanding of soil behavior, as well as provide a scientific community resource; the NEON Soil Archive. 

At each site, a single mega-pit is located in the dominant soil types that are representative of the locations of the soil-based sensors.  Samples are collected for calibrating the soil temperature, moisture, and CO2sensors.  A suite of chemical and physical analyses are performed, as well as archival storage of 1.2 to 3.6 kg of soil from each horizon.  


As of mid-2015, soil mega-pits have been sampled at 33 NEON sites and soils from those horizons have been archived or are actively being processed.  Metadata associated with each mega-pit and soil archive sample include the soil taxonomy and profile description for each mega-pit, photographs, and the soil properties for each horizon.  Soil properties include: Total carbon (C), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), aluminum (Al), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), sodium (Na), phosphorous (P), silicon (Si), strontium (Sr), titanium (Ti) and zirconium (Zr), bulk density, pH, and texture.  The NEON Soil Archive is a scientific community resource, and researchers are encouraged to request samples for study.  Soil samples and associated metadata are freely available and the archive has already begun to provide subsamples to the scientific community. 

Request soil samples by visiting: http://www.neoninc.org/data-resources/specimens-samples/soil-samples.