Integration of below-ground measurements in the NEON terrestrial observation system
Belowground processes are complex and heterogeneous across space and time. This heterogeneity creates barriers to understanding biogeochemical cycles across habitat types and spatial scales and over long periods of time. The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will utilize a suite of belowground measurements in order to better understand and account for the inherent variability of soil environments. Recognition that the critical drivers of soil biogeochemical cycles span traditional disciplinary boundaries has led to an integrated sample design that measures soil, plant, and microbial components. These measurements will be coordinated spatially and temporally across the NEON terrestrial network, which consists of 20 core sites within ecological domains across the U.S. as well as up to 60 relocatable sites.
NEON will measure plant diversity and composition, root biomass, soil biogeochemical C and nutrient stocks, microbial diversity, composition and biomass, and soil microbial function. Measurements that change over longer time scales will be measured every 5 years and include root biomass, soil nitrogen transformation, and soil microbial biomass. Sampling will occur both within the dominant vegetation type at a site as well as in plots distributed throughout a site that contain other vegetation types, allowing for a structured sample design. These data will be made freely and publicly available to the scientific community.