Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Establishing a Long Term High-Altitude Soil Moisture Monitoring Network at the Watershed Scale

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Emily Jack-Scott
Elise Osenga
John Katzenberger
Jeffrey Taylor
Jeffrey Schnissel

The interactive Roaring Fork Observation Network (iRON) was established in central Colorado in 2012 as a long-term monitoring project of benefit to both researchers and local land managers. Long-term research on high elevation precipitation patterns and soil moisture has been limited in the US Intermountain West. This information can provide valuable insight into ecosystem dynamics at high elevations, especially in light of climate change projections for montane areas. The network currently ranges in elevation from 1,980m to 2,700m  with additional stations slated for installation that will broaden that range from 1,880m to 3,000m. Stations take measurements every 20 minutes on soil moisture, air temperature, relative humidity, rain, and soil temperature. Data from these stations will be publicly shared on an interactive, educational website that offers context for observed changes. Not only will these data have value for local land management and restoration decisions, they will also be distributed to regional, national, and international research communities as a valuable data set on long term soil moisture trends across an elevational gradient. Collaborators include towns, counties, non-profits and the private sector. It is intended that this data set will continue to be collected over the span of decades.