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C H A P T E R T H R E E Conceif and Implemenfafion of fle National Ecological Observatory ATefwork After identifying the major environmental challengesfacing the nation, the committee proposed that thefirst NEON observatory sho?~ldfoc?~s on one challenge and that the network should grow by addressing additional challenges. Each theme-based NEON observatory would comprise sites that span the continent and infrastr?~ct?~refor integrated suites of experimental manipulations, monitoring, and synthesis directed at its theme. One of the four tasks in the charge to the committee was to address the question, WiD NEON, as conceptualized in the series of five community workshops, be able to provide infrastructure and logistical support to address ecological and environmental questions of national concern? Our answers to the question are provided in this and later chapters. The answers are not simple; such an evaluation must be based on a comparison of sometimes divergent concepts proposed in the various workshops. In pursuing this task, the committee unavoidably came upon aspects of the National Ecological Observatory Network that it felt could be implemented in better ways. We communicate these findings as an essential part of our answer to the stated question. PROPOSED CONCEPT AND IMPL.EMENTATION OF NEON The NEON program as currently envisioned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be driven mainly 47

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES by the science community an investigator-driven approach that has been highly successful in generating creative research by the scientists funded by NSF. That is, requests for proposals would be issued with only the broadly specified goals of NEON and the requirements of and constraints on regional NEON observatories. The designs set forth in the winning proposals would dictate what each regional NEON observa- tory ultimately became. Thus NEON observatories would take shape only after infrastructure funding under the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account has been secured from Congress. To be successful, NEON would have to attract a large number of the brightest and most productive environmental scientists in the nation, who must be wiring to dedicate their careers to their NEON research. The investigator-driven approach proposed by NSF has advantages and disadvantages. In the committee's opinion, the peer-review process used to select the most promising investigator-proposed research from a suite of numerous competing proposals is the most important factor that has allowed NSF to be so effective. In addition, because investigators articulate their insights and propose the novel scientific anoroaches that 1 1 they find most promising, funded NSF investigators are extremely dedicated to their research. Thus, the committee agrees with NSF that investigator-driven research must be a central feature of the formulation and implementation of NEON. However, the currently envisioned approach requires that NSF request new MREFC funds from Congress without being able to show Congress how the funds would be used or what each NEON observatory would look like or do. That is inconsistent with the normal congressional approach to MREFC funding decisions; Congress expects detailed scientific justification of goals and plans and detailed descriptions of proposed MREFC facilities, including blueprints and cost estimates. The deviation from MREFC funding requirements could decrease the chance that NEON would be established with MREFC funds. In addition, the current approach would build a NEON network piecemeal via funding of one or two regional observatories at a time. Thus, NEON 48

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network will not be a truly integrated national network of sites until ad the observatories are funded and built which could take more than a decade. If, as currently proposed, different universities and consortia submit proposals and obtain funding for design and implementation of each NEON regional observatory, it would be difficult to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to each of the major environmental challenges and proper replication and coordination of critical experiments and observations at a suite of appropriate sites across the nation. But the drawback of an issue-driven approach is that NSF may be over prescrip- tive in the NEON design, which could potentially reduce the creativity and commitment of investigators, cause less efficient resource use, and have NEON fail to attract the most appropriate scientists. For NEON to be efficient in addressing the nation's major environ- mental challenges, the committee believes that a middle ground needs to be found between the issue-driven and the investigator-driven approaches. The ideas and creativity of a large number of highly productive scientists should be incorporated into NEON design to ensure the scientists' dedication to NEON projects. A sufficiently detailed vision of NEON needs to be presented not only to fulfill MREFC funding criteria but also to ensure that research programs at NEON observatories would provide information from experimentation and observations that could aid local, regional, and national policy-makers, park and wildlife-preserve managers, Forest Service personnel, overseers of agricultural sectors, land-use planners, conservation biologists, water managers, and others in environmental decision-making. Hence, NEON research teams should be multidisciplinary and include social scientists, such as economists and political scientists, in addition to ecologists and environmental biologists. Given NSF's current implementation plan for NEON, it is difficult to identify the infrastructure needed without knowing the type of research to be conducted in the full suite of regional observatories. For example, a regional observatory might procure infrastructure of little use to itself in the false belief that it would be useful to as-yet-unnamed observatories at some future date. The committee is also concerned that the nationwide aspect of NEON would not be realized if the regional observatories are 49

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES built two at a time. Hence, we suggest that one way to achieve the objectives would be for NSF to focus NEON explicitly on such environ- mental challenges as presented in Chapter 2. The six environmental challenges have already been suggested as issues that could be addressed in NEON observatories by NSF and AlBS (NSF 2002d, AlBS 2003), and three of them have been recommended as priority research areas that deserve immediate investments (NRC 2001~. An advantage of having NEON focus explicitly on major environ- mental challenges is that NEON could be implemented more efficiently and effectively. Each NEON observatory would be national in scope and focused on one particular challenge. Sites in an observatory would be selected simultaneously and located strategically across the nation to ensure adequate regional and national coverage for addressing the challenge. The research focus of each theme-based nationwide NEON observatory would guide the selection of sites and help to identify its essential facilities, infrastructure, and research support. Each later NEON observatory would build on existing infrastructure as needed to pursue its particular challenge and the interactive effects of its challenge with those already being studied in established observatories. Six nation- wide, theme-based NEON observatories would thus cover all the major challenges that the committee identified. We envision each observatory as a network of sites spanning the nation with infrastructure, providing the resources for the experimental and observational research needed for its specific theme and for an array of appropriate core monitoring tasks. Experimental sites would be replicated in different habitats across the continent to allow comparative ecosystem analyses. A synthesis center would collate and integrate data and make information available to all workers, modelers, and educators. The design of each NEON observatory would be optimized for its environmental challenge by interactions among the coalition of many multi-investigator and interdisciplinary teams and associated sites competitively chosen from across the nation. Sufficient funds must be allocated for the development of each NEON observatory for it to be a truly nationwide network. 50

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network To be effective, each NEON observatory must form partnerships with appropriate federal, state, and local agencies and organizations so that it can coordinate and optimize data collection and sharing. A number of agencies already collect long-term systematic environmental data relevant to the six themes we suggested. NEON observatories could include some of this long-term core monitoring that complements the experiments at selected sites and adds to those datasets. In some cases, sites may be colocated with existing long-term monitoring systems by other agencies. Long-term data could show trends that lay the founda- tion for hypothesis setting, reveal the status of the system relative to what is being measured, and subsequently lead to a better understanding of the effectiveness of environmental regulations or allow prediction. More- over, all the observatories in the network should be linked with each other via a central coordinating and synthesis center. Research in each observatory and among observatories should be coordinated cooperatively to increase the effectiveness of the entire NEON program. It is imprac- tical, if not impossible, to design meaningful nationwide experimental studies that explore the fuD range of interactions among all six environ- mental challenges, but one or more individual sites in a given NEON observatory could simultaneously address several grand challenges and their interactions. The creation of a NEON observatory would likely be a multistep process. First, open workshops and working groups should be held to solicit ideas and approaches to a particular grand environmental chal- lenge. The workshop would generate suggestions of potential sites, infrastructure needs and partnerships. Second, investigators' input would be synthesized in peer-reviewed preproposals addressing the challenge that were submitted by different teams for work at particular sites. Finally, there would be discussion and coordination among the chosen teams to finalize plans for the entire observatory. Such a multistep process, with participation of numerous scientists in the design of an observatory, would ensure that its equipment, facilities, and core moni- toring would meet the research needs of investigators. The finalized plans for the entire observatory would undergo further review and 51

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES modifications. The goal of such a multistep process is to optimize both the ability of various scientists to contribute creativity and commitment to the observatory and the ability of the multiple teams and sites to pursue their challenge in a coordinated manner. NSF would seek funds from the MREFC and Research and Related Activities (R&RA) accounts for the observatory at the appropriate time during this process. Matters that need to be addressed in a NEON plan include site selection, equipment acquisition, site management, core monitoring, data management and quality assurance, and specimen banking. NEON sites should be selected for their appropriateness for the research theme of the observatory and likely future observatories. IdeaDy, most sites would be able to serve several themes, but some sites could be of unique interest to one research theme only. The latter should be kept to a minimum to optimize the efficiency and the integration of NEON observatories. Similarly, instrumentation and equipment at NEON observatories should have the flexibility to incorporate advances in technology and data analyses and to be upgraded in a cost-effective manner. Managers and providers of basic services would be needed for each observatory and its many sites, and mechanisms should be in place for the selection and directions of the managers. The managers and opera- . tars, who would become integral parts of the infrastructure themselves, would be responsible for putting the recommended infrastructure in place and operating and maintaining it. Each observatory must be able to ensure the quality of its massive datasets and to store, archive, retrieve and integrate datasets and make them readily available to ad potential users. Those would be the tasks of a synthesis center, or perhaps a virtual synthesis center, which would serve as a focal point for each NEON observatory. The synthesis center would also store data on the systematics of the biodiversity in that network, and could develop tools to improve the efficiency of and capacity for identifying and documenting species. Environmental-specimen banking is critical because new and better analytical tools will be developed to determine exposure of organisms and the environment to anthropogenic stressors and their effects. Thus, NEON must give careful consideration to central banking of environ- o 52

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network mental samples in a manner that would preserve their chemical and biological integrity. Such a banking program is already operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which NEON could partner with or emulate. Questions relative to the status and trends of environmental systems that cannot be addressed today may be answered in the future by using the stored samples, archived data, and new analytical tools. Each theme-specific NEON observatory would have to determine its educational focus and how it would reach targeted audiences, such as K-12 teachers and students, undergraduate and graduate students, and the general public. Environmental-education specialists should therefore be involved in the planning phase of each observatory. We endorse the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AlBS) recommendation that NEON observatories have a public outreach and information office to communicate and disseminate their role, research, and results to the public, and the mass media and to offer on-site tours, programs, and volunteer opportunities (AIBS 2003~. To coordinate, facilitate, and assist the observatories in their education function, an education and outreach center should be considered. The planning, implementation, and operation of each theme-driven NEON observatory could be overseen by a university corporation consor- tium similar to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Each university, federal agency, or institution that is part of the observa- tory could become a member. The university consortium would provide administrative structure and a governing council that provides oversight and ensures that the NEON observatory serves the entire scientific community that is addressing its theme. A permanent coordinating body independent of NSF should be established to oversee the NEON network. The coordinating body would ensure integration and coordination across the network, oversee the network's facility infrastructure, and coordinate establishment of standard procedures for data collection and policies for access to NEON sites, data, and specimens. The NEON program would also need the advice and oversight of an independent body of scientific experts to 53

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES ensure that the observatories remain focused on their missions and that potential synergies gained by collaborations between and among different observatories are realized. Such a standing scientific coordinating committee could be organized by a consortium of multiple universities. EXAMPLES OF NEON OBSERVATORIES AND THEIR INTEGRATION On the basis of the six research themes, the committee outlines here some of the major infrastructure necessary to conduct large-scale research. The brief lists given below are by no means exhaustive or all-inclusive. Rather, they illustrate some of the possible infrastructure and research needs of the NEON observatory that focuses on each theme. More appropriate and complete designs would be generated through open workshops and discussions, the ideas generated in preproposals, and the synthesis of the preproposals chosen for further consideration. Although a the construction, implementation, and maintenance costs of NEON observatories could be determined only after comprehensive plans have been drawn for the observatories, they are likely to vary between observa- tories depending on their focus and plans. Costs may substantially exceed the $20 and $3 million that NSF proposed for the construction and maintenance of each observatory. But the costs of six theme-driven observatories might be comparable to, if not less, than 17 regional observatories proposed by NSF. Program funds, in addition to MREFC and R&RA funds, should be made available for the conduct of research so that NEON facilities could be fully exploited. Biodiversity and Composition All the lands of the nation are deliberately or inadvertently managed by their owners. Such management has led to dramatic shifts in the abundances of species in the nation's ecosystems and equally dramatic decreases in biodiversity. The shifts in composition and diversity could strongly influence many processes, including disease dynamics, ecosystem 54

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network productivity and stability, nutrient dynamics, and water quality. They may also influence human welfare by affecting the services that eco- systems provide to society. To understand better the effects of shifts in biodiversity and ecosystem services, improved monitoring programs must be established to document how various management practices influence composition and biodiversity in the varied terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems of the nation and how shifts in composition and diversity influence their dynamics, stability, and functioning. The major infra- structure and investments needed to achieve those goals could include . A network of sites with environmental chambers and field experiments in perhaps 20 ecosystem types representing the diversity of the nation's ecosystems. The sites and chambers could be used to perform experiments designed to determine how and why various aspects of human-driven environmental change affect biodiversity and species composition. Other experiments could focus on the functional ecology of the species to determine how changes in biodiversity and composition affect major aspects of ecosystem stability and functioning. . Facilities, and equipment for detailed monitoring of species abundances and biodiversity in relation to various perturbations and management practices in sites representing the nation's whole array of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine communities and ecosystem types from across the nation. Although biodiversity and composition monitor- ing may seem to be a daunting task that requires data collection at 1,000 sites or more, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service, the US Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service, NSF, and various other national, state, and regional agencies already have programs in place. Detailed monitoring could be achieved once those efforts were coordinated and expanded. . A national program for archiving type specimens and samples of each species in soils, of water and so on, for future analysis. . A national data and synthesis center to collate, store, and allow analysis of biodiversity and composition data and related data on site and management practices. 55

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES . . ,. genetic studies. Sequencing facilities and microscopes for taxonomic and phylo- A biodiversity observatory could collaborate or integrate with existing biodiversity programs to expand the scope and depth of biodiversity research. Examples include . BioMER GE. An NSF-funded research coordinating network dedicated to fostering integration of the study of biodiversity with the study of ecosystem processes (~. The National Biological Information Infrastructure (TIBIA. A broad, collaborative program to provide increased access to data on the nation's biological resources. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes in Terrestrial Herbaceo?~s Ecosystems (BIODEPTHJ. A pan-European study of the importance of biodiversity for the functioning of grassland ecosystems. It features the same field-manipulation experiment replicated across a continental network of sites. . DIVERSITAS. An international global environmental-change research program. It is pursuing three core projects: in discovering biodiversity and predicting its changes, in assessing effects of biodiversity change, and in developing the science of the conservation and sustainable users. Biogeochemistry Anthropogenic activities have been altering the cycling and distribu- tion of such major elements as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. How- ever, ecosystem structure and function also play an important role in biogeochemical cycling. The primary goal of a biogeochemistry observa- tory is to provide experimental and observational infrastructure for studying the biotic and biogeochemical responses of ecosystems to spatial 56

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network and temporal environmental changes. The infrastructure required for large-scale biotic and biogeochemical studies could include . A nationwide network of experimental nitrogen-deposition accelerators and controDed-environmental soil-warming chambers for studying the effects of major environmental stressors on ecosystems. . Nested arrays of eddy covariance towers across important envi- ronmental and stressor gradients for studying atmosphere-biosphere interactions and net carbon storage with increased spatial intensity. . Advance remote sensing and geographic information systems to support investigations into previous patterns of land use, to extrapolate site and gradient studies across the region, and to measure spatial and temporal changes in the concentrations and ratios of nutrients in the foliage of forest canopies. . soil and water. . Instruments designed for monitoring chemical composition in A mass spectrometer and sequencing center to study the effect of altered biogeochemical cycles on isotopic signatures of nationwide soil and water samples and on the diversity of plants and animals, respectively. . Nested arrays of eddy covariance towers across important envi- ronmental and stressor gradients to study atmosphere-biosphere inter- actions and net carbon storage with increased spatial intensity and to monitor and assess physiological capacity of plants. . meets. . Automated chambers or CO2 soil probes for respiration measure- A central facility for standardized equipment calibration. A biogeochemistry observatory would benefit from partnerships with agencies and programs such as the following: . Flu~cnet. A global network of micrometeorological tower sites that use eddy covariance methods to measure the exchanges of carbon dioxide, water vapor, and energy between terrestrial ecosystem and atmosphere. Over 200 sites are used for continual long-term monitoring. 57

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES . The National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It has an . . extensive remote sensing network. National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTNJ. A nationwide network of precipitation monitoring sites. NADP data products include weekly and daily precipitation-chemistry data, annual and seasonal wet-deposition data, and mercury-deposition data. Climate Change The central missions of a climate change observatory would be to facilitate research on the effects of different scenarios of climate change on the nation's natural and managed ecosystems and research on how functioning and status of the nation's ecosystems might affect regional and global climate change by influencing greenhouse gases, albedo, evapotranspiration, and so on. To achieve those missions, assessment and experimentation need to be conducted simultaneously and replicated across species' functional groups and ecosystem types. The climate- change observatory might require Facilities and equipment for detailed, long-term observations of species dynamics of locally important or interesting species and their relations to climate variability. 0 1 Instruments for the automated collection of detailed physical information, including climate data, dynamics of soil moisture and soil nutrient chemistry, groundwater chemistry, soil and plant respiration, photosynthesis, and release of greenhouse gases. . Experimental climate accelerators to determine the effects of possible future scenarios of climate change on the composition, dynamics, stability, and productivity of the major ecosystems of the nation. Each accelerator could comprise a set of large experimental units. . A nationwide network of eddy flux towers to locate and under- stand the "missing carbon sink" of terrestrial North America and to determine how and why land and habitat use and management practices 58

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network in different ecosystems influence carbon storage and release. The eddy flux towers should be at sites in each region that have varied land and habitat uses, and should be calibrated and validated with detailed site data. . A nationwide network of experimental climate accelerators to determine the effects of likely scenarios of climate change on the compo- sition, dynamics, stability, and productivity of major ecosystems. The climate accelerators could be at a number of different sites, each site having large experimental units. . A cTimate-change observatory could partner with agencies and Integrate with programs and existing monitoring schemes, such as . National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOBLE. It has the Climate Prediction Center, the Climate Monitoring Diag- nostics Laboratory, and the National Climatic Data Center. . US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). It supports research and observational activities on the interactions of natural and human-induced changes in the global environment and their implica- . . Ions for society. . Global Climate Observing System (GCOSJ. This was established to ensure that the observations and information needed to address cTimate-related issues are obtained and made available to all potential users. Infectious Diseases An observatory for the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases could focus on some of the important and pressing disease issues in plants, wildlife and zoonotic diseases (infectious diseases shared between wildlife and humans). An observatory on infectious diseases could seek to predict the conditions that would increase risk and spread of those diseases, identifying hot spots and the nodes of infection where diseases must pass through for an epidemic to become important. An infectious- disease observatory would aim to facilitate interdisciplinary research to 59

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES identify the ecological causes of emergence and the changes in evolution- ary pressures that can lead to the emergence of virulent strains. Specific infrastructure needs could include Detailed field sites recording seasonal and inert annual variations in disease prevalence and experimental sites coupled with containment facilities. Sites should be distributed in different regions to allow com- parisons and replicated within regions. . Disease-monitoring centers with sequencers. 1mmuno~o~v and . 1 , OF virology laboratories, and biosecure handling facilities for small-scale experiments (for example, experiments on host dynamics). Sites would require large computational power for running simulation models of the of . . ~ .- . - . . .- A. spatial spread ot diseases and 1ntegranng phylogenetlc studies ot hosts, parasites, and environmental pressures. . Vector screening sites related to emergence of disease, such as West of Nile virus, with central identification and molecular screening laboratories. Epidemiological warehouses for monitoring transmission patterns and routes at the mesoscale where ecosystems level factors could be manipulated. Similar holding systems would be needed to identify selective pressures leading to evolution of new strains. . PCR-sequencing laboratory for diagnosis of infectious agents. Potential collaborators of an emerging-disease observatory . include The National Wildlife Health Center (NWHCJ. A science center of the Biological Resources Discipline of the United States Geological Survey. NWHC is a biomedical laboratory dedicated to assessing the effects of disease on wildlife and to identifying the role of various patho- gens in contributing to wildlife losses. . Forest Service Forest Health Protection Program. A program of the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service that conducts annual aerial and ground surveys to monitor the status of destructive insect and disease pests on Forest Service lands. 60

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network . National Institute of Allergy and In Sections Diseases. This sunnorts 1 1 basic research on West Nile and related viruses to understand factors associated with the animal or human hosts, the microorganisms, and the environment that influence disease emergence. . Centersfor Disease ControlandPrevention. This maintains human epidemiological data on vector-borne infectious diseases. Invasive Species Research at an observatory for invasive species would have a primary mission of predicting and monitoring the occurrences, spread, and environmental consequences of invasive species. Those species would include microorganisms, insects and other animals, plants, and genetically altered organisms. Achieving the mission would require a mechanistic knowledge of the invasion process and information about species traits and ecosystem states that influence invasions. The observatory's major infrastructure might be expected to include . Major physical sites, each with containment facilities appropriate for experimental introduction of invasive species into contained commu- nities. Experiments would be designed to determine the mechanisms of interaction among native and invasive species and to enhance our capa- bilities to assess an ecosystem's vulnerability to species invasion. . Control hardware and software to monitor environmental alterations and to adjust local conditions. . A major site serving as a central sequencing center, which could include an existing sequencing center and be equipped with molecular genetic instrumentation and such equipment as sequencers, cloning facilities, chip printers, and microarray readers. . Facilities at each site to house local synoptic collections. Micro- scopes, digital photographic tools, microarray readers and gene specific probes would likely be needed. . Experimental plots at some or ad major sites outfitted with equipment needed to alter local environments, such as carbon dioxide 61

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES addition rings or soil warmers, so as to determine the possible selective advantages that climate change or environmental change may confer on . . . Invasive species. . PCR-sequencing facilities to determine origin and genetic structure of invasive populations. The invasive species observatory could establish linkages to such agencies and programs as . The National Invasive Species Council. An interdepartmental council that helps to coordinate and ensure complementary, cost-efficient, and effective federal activities regarding invasive species. . NBII invasive species information node (ISINJ. With its partners, this is involved in research projects to understand, document, monitor, predict, and control invasive species. . USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHISJ. This has an invasive species program. USDA also has an invasive- species Web site with links to a number of databases ( Land and Habitat Use and Management A NEON observatory dedicated to land and habitat use would have to be structured to allow determination of the local, regional, and conti- nental effects of alternative land and habitat use patterns. Its central focus would be on scaling local effects up to regional or national by linking atmospheric effects and effects of aquatic transport of organisms and materials. Such an observatory could be structured in several ways and would have numerous potential facility needs. At a minimum, it would need a set of nested sites spanning a large geographic range from midwest croplands, to suburban and urban lands, to the Gulf of Mexico- and a large range of land uses growing different agricultural crops in different ways, managing pastures and forests in different ways, urban and suburban areas with different types of sewage treatment, and so on. 62

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network A wide array of automated sensors would need to be spread across this network of sites, such as . . Instruments designed to monitor concentrations of nitrate, . phosphate, and other chemicals in soils of pastures, croplands, forests, and urban and suburban areas. . . Instruments that measure rates of water and material movement into surface water and groundwater; from groundwater to ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers; and from the aforementioned aquatic ecosystems into estuaries, nearshore marine ecosystems, and the open oceans. . Instruments that measure atmospheric transports that link sites and regions. A central facility for data acquisition and informatics that could also serve as a synthesis center. Some examples of agencies and programs that could collaborate with a land use and habitat management observatory are . USED. Willis agency makes estimates for major land use classes across the United States. . NOA~'s Coastal Change Analysis Program. A national effort to foster development and distribution of regional landscape cover/chan~e data in the coastal zone through remote sensing technology. INTEGRATION OF NEON OBSERVATORIES Each of the six research themes outlined in Chapter 2 addresses a a major driver of environmental change. Because these human-driven environmental changes are occurring simultaneously, it is important to understand both the direct effects of each type of environmental change and the interactions among them. That necessitates careful integration of the research among the theme-based NEON observatories. Each of the theme-based observatories should be planned to allow for research focusing on the interactive effects of multiple drivers of environmental change. 63

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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES With six major challenges, many combinations of drivers could be studied indeed, too many to study ad combinations. For illustrative purposes only, we provide a few examples of cross-cutting research among the six themes. For instance, biodiversity, climate change, and nitrogen deposition may ad affect an ecosystem's resistance to biological invasions. Experiments could be designed to assess the interactive effects of these three drivers and test to see whether the interactions were general or differed among regions or ecosystem types. Similarly, land- scape changes and climate change might be a driving force for emerging diseases. For example, in the Central Valley of California, about 90% of the wetlands have been converted to agricultural lands and other uses, channeling waterfowis into remaining wetlands. Such mass concentra- tion of birds for prolonged periods facilitates exposure of many birds to disease agents and promotes outbreaks. Research could be conducted to assess the effect of land-use changes on spread of infectious diseases. The six research themes share some common infrastructure needs. For example, studies of biodiversity, infectious diseases, and invasive species all require sequencing facilities, so that one central sequencing center could be established to serve ad observatories. Climate accelera- tors could serve biogeochemists and climate change scientists and give insights into how climate change would affect the biodiversity and species composition of ecosystems. Eddy flux towers at some sites could be used for both cTimate-change and biogeochemical research. Given the overlap between research themes and the shared equipment needs, sites of one theme-based NEON observatory would probably be part of and provide services for several other observatories. Hence, one cost-saving strategy would be to initiate the NEON network with one theme-based observatory and phase in observatories one at a time. When the first national observatory becomes operational, establishment of the second observatory can begin, taking advantage of and leveraging existing facilities in the first observatory. Interdiscinlinarv research. such 1 J as research on the effects of altered carbon or nitrogen availability on shifts in biodiversity, could be pursued in overlapping sites. In addition, 64

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Concept and Implementation of the National Ecological Observatory Network the NEON sites with overlapping themes would provide opportunities for scientists from various disciplines to work at the same location and generate synergies of effort. The sequential establishment of theme- based national NEON observatories would facilitate network integration and cross-cutting research. 65

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