Rolling out the scientific capabilities of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
NEON is beginning its third year of construction and first year of operations at selected sites across the US. Three phases of capability have been defined to demonstrate the roll-out of observatory infrastructure in support of future scientific investigations using NEON data.
The first phase is the Initial Observatory Capability (IOC), which is scheduled for June 2015. Data will be collected from sites that fall within two principle science themes: (1) Nitrogen Deposition Gradient associated with the Eastern Seaboard; and (2) Southeastern Forest Management Gradient, encompassing the Southeastern Coastal Plain and southern parts of the Ozarks Complex. A suite of over two dozen data products from these sites are planned to be available on the NEON portal at the IOC.
Next is the Intermediate Incremental Capability (IIC), scheduled for September 2016. The IIC expands upon the IOC to add: (1) sites in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes regions to inform the Forest Management Science Theme; (2) the combined Dust and Nitrogen Deposition Gradient encompassing portions of the Central Plains, Southern Rockies and Great Basin; (3) sites in the Northern and Central Plains, and Puerto Rico that inform the Agricultural Land Use Change Science Theme; (4) the Eco-hydrological Connectivity Science Theme in Alabama; and (5) sites across multiple regions that contribute to the Climate Change Theme. About 200 data products are planned to be available via the NEON portal by the IIC.
The Final Incremental Capability (FIC), achieved beginning in June 2017, adds sites that inform four primary science themes, including: (1) Urban Ecology Theme, which includes humid sites on the Eastern Seaboard, and dry sites in the Intermountain West and Southwest; (2) Alaskan Permafrost Gradient; (3) sites in the Mid-Atlantic, Southern Plains and Hawaii that are focused on understanding trends related to Invasive Species; and (4) the Aquatic Gradient. With this final suite of data products added, a total of 325 data products are planned to be produced at the FIC.
The intent of this approach is to demonstrate NEON’s infrastructure and emerging scientific capabilities through these three phases while, during the IOC and IIC, NEON continues to add to the scientific capability of each site and domain. By identifying science themes and gradients during each phase, NEON will demonstrate what the operational observatory looks like, including the potential for using NEON data to address ecological issues across multiple regions.