The plant phenology monitoring design for the National Ecological Observatory Network

Sarah C. Elmendorf, Katherine D. Jones, Benjamin I. Cook, Jeffrey M. Diez, Carolyn A.F. Enquist, Rebecca A. Hufft, Matthew O. Jones, Susan J. Mazer, Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, David J.P. Moore, Mark D. Schwartz, Jake F. Weltzin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Phenology is an integrative science that comprises the study of recurring biological activities or events. In an era of rapidly changing climate, the relationship between the timing of those events and environmental cues such as temperature, snowmelt, water availability, or day length are of particular interest. This article provides an overview of the observer-based plant phenology sampling conducted by the U.S. National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), the resulting data, and the rationale behind the design. Trained technicians will conduct regular in situ observations of plant phenology at all terrestrial NEON sites for the 30-yr life of the observatory. Standardized and coordinated data across the network of sites can be used to quantify the direction and magnitude of the relationships between phenology and environmental forcings, as well as the degree to which these relationships vary among sites, among species, among phenophases, and through time. Vegetation at NEON sites will also be monitored with tower-based cameras, satellite remote sensing, and annual high-resolution airborne remote sensing. Ground-based measurements can be used to calibrate and improve satellite-derived phenometrics. NEON's phenology monitoring design is complementary to existing phenology research efforts and citizen science initiatives throughout the world and will produce interoperable data. By collocating plant phenology observations with a suite of additional meteorological, biophysical, and ecological measurements (e.g., climate, carbon flux, plant productivity, population dynamics of consumers) at 47 terrestrial sites, the NEON design will enable continental-scale inference about the status, trends, causes, and ecological consequences of phenological change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01303
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Long-term monitoring
  • NEON
  • Open-source data
  • Plant phenology
  • Sample design
  • Special feature: NEON design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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