Aquatic Organisms

To better understand changing populations and communities of organisms within aquatic ecosystems, NEON collects observational sampling data of a variety of organisms at its 34 freshwater aquatic field sites (which include 24 streams, 3 large rivers and 7 lakes). 

Types of chemical and biological data collected at NEON aquatic sites

Aquatic Plants (including algae, bryophytes and lichens)

NEON collects data throughout the year on the presence, composition and abundance of aquatic plants, bryophytes, lichen, and macroalgae at aquatic field sites. The organisms can act as indicators of invasive species and changes in nutrient loads, toxicity, and land-cover in watersheds. A portion of microalgae provide biogeochemical data and then a subset of samples are archived and available for additional research.

Microalgae (Periphyton and phytoplankton)

NEON samples microalgae (including periphyton, seston, and phytoplankton) to track microalgae presence/absence, community structure and function, and the introduction of invasive species at NEON’s aquatic field sites. These data are compatible with data from existing environmental monitoring programs, like U.S. Geologic Survey’s National Water Quality Assessment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Rivers and Streams Assessment, and will provide a long time-series of seasonal data across NEON aquatic sites. A portion of microalgae provide biogeochemical data and then a subset of samples are archived and available for additional research.

Zooplankton

NEON conducts zooplankton sampling at its seven lake sites to quantify biodiversity, number of species present, and biomass.  These variables will be used to build a database over time that is compatible with existing research, that tracks changes in zooplankton community structure and function, and that traces the introduction of invasive species. A portion of samples are used for DNA metabarcoding and then a subset are archived and available for additional research.

Macroinvertebrates

Sampling of benthic invertebrates is used to determine taxa diversity, the number of species present (richness), biomass, and to enable DNA analysis for benthic invertebrates at each aquatic sampling site. These variables, especially diversity and biomass, will be tracked over time to detect changes in species loss, changes in community structure and function, as well as the introduction and the spread of invasive taxa (presence/absence). Sampling stream and lake benthic macroinvertebrate communities over the time span of the NEON Observatory will help researchers determine changes in presence/absence of taxa, taxa diversity and richness, community structure, and species loss. A portion of samples are used for DNA metabarcoding and then a subset are archived and available for additional research.

Fish

Fish sampling is conducted at 28 lake and wadeable stream sites across the United States to quantify interannual variation in the abundance, health, diversity, and distribution of fish populations. Collecting fish community data can provide early indicator information on the changing health of an aquatic ecosystem. Sampled fish are identified, photographed, measured, weighed and then released. Some fish tissues are collected and DNA sequenced for additional taxonomic information.

Microbes (surface water and benthic)

Surface water and benthic microbes are sampled for community composition, abundance. The samples also yield biogeochemical and DNA sequence data. A subset of samples are archived and available for additional research.

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