Types of NEON Field Sites

The National Ecological Observatory Network has 81 field sites strategically located across the United States, including  47 terrestrial field sites and 34 freshwater aquatic field sites. All NEON data collected at these sites are open access; and they are collected using standardized, well documented methods to enable users to better understand how our nation's ecosystems are changing.

NEON Domains

NEON field sites are placed throughout 20 ecoclimatic domains that represent regions of distinct landforms, vegetation, climate and ecosystem dynamics. The observatory’s regional domain approach is designed to statistically represent ecological, physical and biological variability across the continent. Domains range from the Tundra and Taiga in Alaska, to the Atlantic Neotropical in Puerto Rico and the Pacific Neotropical in Hawaii. Data collection methods are also divided between terrestrial field sites and aquatic field sites.

Map of NEON field sites and ecoclimatic domains


Terrestrial Field Sites

Weather and climate conditions along with seasonally changing biological and biogeochemical processes are important drivers and indicators of terrestrial ecosystem function. To better understand these processes, the NEON project collects data at 47 terrestrial field sites across the United States. 

At each terrestrial field site, the NEON project collects data to understand changes in climate, surface-atmosphere interactions, biogeochemical processes, organismal populations, and habitat structure. Twenty of these sites are "core sites" that will remain in the same location for the full 30 year lifetime of the observatory. Core sites are also typically placed in areas to statistically capture terrestrial wildland conditions. Twenty seven of the terrestrial sites are categorized as "relocatable sites." Relocatable sites differ from core sites in that they may be re-deployed periodically throughout the 30-year term of the observatory to capture terrestrial ecosystems and environmental gradients that are not adequately captured at core terrestrial sites. 

NEON uses a standardized methodology at all terrestrial sites which means the data are comparable across all NEON field sites.

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Aquatic Field Sites

Hydrologic drivers, weather and climate conditions, and seasonal biological and biogeochemical transitions are important drivers and indicators of freshwater aquatic ecosystem function. To better understand these processes, the NEON project collects data at 34 freshwater aquatic field sites located across the United States including 24 wadeable streams, seven lakes, and three non-wadeable rivers.

At each aquatic field site, the NEON project collects data to understand changes in freshwater and biogeochemical processes, organismal populations and habitat structure. Twenty of the aquatic sites are “core” sites meaning they will collect data for the 30-year lifetime of the observatory. The other 14 “relocatable” sites may move throughout the lifetime of the observatory.

NEON uses a standardized methodology at all aquatic sites which means the data are comparable across all NEON field sites. Please note that currently there are no aquatic sites in D20: Pacific Neotropical (Hawaii).

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Left: A map of terrestrial sites; Right: A map of aquatic sites

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