March’s NEON Spotlight highlights three new stories demonstrating how scientists are leveraging NEON data in their efforts to expand the capabilities of ecological science. This month, we are spotlighting how NEON is helping to test accuracy in atmospheric water transport studies, support bird conservation planning, and measure biodiversity with remote sensing. NEON data continue to be a crucial source in fueling and sharpening the public’s knowledge of the natural world.
This Month’s Spotlight
The latest news from NEON includes:
- Researchers use NEON Meteorological Data in Water Transport Study
Scientists in Colorado used NEON meteorological data to validate the accuracy of open-path measurements of water isotopes using mid-infrared dual-comb spectrometer (DCS). The DCS was used to measure the amounts of two types of water molecules (H216O and HD16O) in the air at a test site for over three months. The DCS could measure differences as small as 2 parts per thousand. The measurements were compared to those from NEON at two nearby field sites, which confirmed the data were accurate and able to be used in the researchers’ water transport study. The researchers found daily and seasonal patterns in the amounts of the water molecules and suggest that more monitoring networks could be developed to better understand how atmospheric water moves in different regions.
- NEON Data to Support Bird Species Conservation Planning
Michigan State University and the National Audubon Society are partnering to use NEON datasets to assess how climate change and land use affect hundreds of bird species. The team has received a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop statistical models that will help to evaluate bird populations and enable conservationists and wildlife managers to identify the areas where individual species may be most at risk. Using datasets from NEON and others, researchers estimate that North America has lost over three billion birds over the past 50 years, and the team's forecasts serve as a useful tool in managing species across the U.S. The data are being used to create a more robust population forecast of birds in the face of climate and land-use change. The team’s development of statistical models based on the datasets will be used to better understand the challenges that migrating birds covering large ranges face due to climate change.
- NEON Data used to Map Plant Biodiversity and Density
Scientists have harnessed NEON’s vegetation and imaging spectroscopy data to make observing plant biodiversity easier and to plan for future conservation. Researchers used NEON’s data to confirm that plant species composition calculated from spectral images can accurately pinpoint changes in plants across U.S. biomes. The researchers were able to show that hyperspectral data with hundreds of spectral bands can be used to get a range of plant diversity information. These techniques will help monitor biodiversity for vegetation in all major biomes in the U.S. and plan future conservation efforts.
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by Battelle, NEON is a continental-scale ecological observatory network dedicated to providing high-quality, consistently generated, standardized data that is 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.