Latest Innovations with NEON: Ecosystem Impact on Ground invertebrates, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory Project and Ecological Forest Management

alt=Battelle NEON April 2024 Spotlight

Since 2016, Battelle has had the privilege of managing and operating the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in partnership with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

Originally conceived at the turn of the millennium and designed to collect measurements for three decades, NEON is a U.S.-wide network of 81 field sites that offers the global scientific community access to rich, continent-scale datasets that are driving ecological research.

This month, we are spotlighting three examples of the latest research leveraging NEON data. Below, you can read more about Michael Kaspari and his team's work assessing invertebrate size based on ecological factors, the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory's funding award to leverage NEON data to link forest health to hydrology and fire, and how NEON data are helping advance the field of ecological forestry.

This Month’s Spotlight 
The latest news from NEON includes:

  1. NEON Used to Determine Body Size of Ground Invertebrates
    Scientists wanted to explore how an ecosystem’s plant productivity, temperature, and growing season length impact body size for ground invertebrates. NEON data were used to measure body size across 99 ground invertebrate communities from Alaska to Puerto Rico. Scientists found that mean body size is correlated to ecosystems with long winters and high invertebrate activity. Body size distributions appear to arise from conflicting combinations of constraint (e.g., the ability to build large bodies) and performance (e.g., role of size in surviving long winters). The results suggest a warming future generally more favorable to large-bodied species.

  2. Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory to Use NEON AOP in Newly Funded Project
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) was awarded about $1 million in funding by Congress in a recent spending bill, allocated to support water and forest health in the Colorado River Basin. With this funding, RMBL will use NEON in their project to help scientists link vegetation and forest health to hydrology and fire impacts. Scientists say that access to field data and powerful technologies – including imagery technology from NEON that allows for precise measurement of vegetation – will be a “game-changer” for understanding how ecosystems in Colorado will respond to drought and climate change.  

  3. Tree Structural Patterns from Tornados evaluated through NEON
    Scientists in Alabama wanted to explore a natural disturbance-based approach to silviculture (the practice of controlling the establishment and growth of forests and woodlands), examining the impact of catastrophic disturbances (in this case an EF3 tornado) on resultant local tree patterns. Based on an assessment using NEON lidar data, the researchers found that using “clearcut,” “seed tree,” and “shelterwood with reserves regeneration” methods may be appropriate analogs to natural canopy disturbance in the Fall Line Hills region. The researchers noted that these findings can be expanded to help forest managers in other regions maintain local ecosystems in line with a natural disturbance-based approach.

Sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation and operated by Battelle, NEON is a continental-scale ecological observatory network dedicated to providing high-quality, consistently generated, standardized data that are free and available to all users. By enabling scientists, researchers, and students to address critical questions and understand ecosystem changes over time, the NEON program allows the ecological community to tackle questions and problems at a scale that was not possible before.

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)

Uncover the ecological secrets hidden across diverse ecosystems.

April 25, 2024
Battelle Insider
Estimated Read Time
3 Mins


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