The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a continental-scale ecological observation platform funded by the National Science Foundation. NEON will be the first observatory designed to both detect ecological change and enable forecasting of its impacts.
NEON's mission is: To enable understanding and forecasting of the impacts of climate change, land-use change and invasive species on continental-scale ecology -- by providing infrastructure and consistent methodologies to support research and education in these areas.
NEON will gather and synthesize data over 30 years on the impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity. Obtaining integrated data on these relationships over a long-term period is crucial to improving forecast models and resource management for environmental change.
NEON will build 62 sites across the U.S. (including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico) to collect instrumental and field data. The sites have been strategically selected to represent different regions of vegetation, landforms, climate, and ecosystem performance. The data collected will focus on climate and atmosphere; soils, streams and ponds; and a variety of organisms (such as plants, animals and microbes). In addition to site-based sampling and experiments, NEON will collect airborne remote sensing data. These data will be combined with existing continental-scale data sets (e.g., satellite data) to provide a range of scaled data products that can be used to describe changes in the nation’s ecosystem through space and time.
All NEON data and information products will be freely available via a public web portal. NEON’s open-access approach to its data and information products will enable scientists, educators, planners, decision makers and the public to map, understand and predict the effects of human activities on ecology and effectively address critical ecological questions and issues.
NEON successfully completed the planning and design phase and recently entered the construction phase in Spring 2012. NEON is currently building sites as of Summer 2012. Constructing the entire NEON network will take approximately five years, so NEON expects to be in full operation by approximately 2017.