The agreement between the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation sets into motion the Walker Branch Watershed portion of the $434 million project known as the National Ecological Observatory Network, or NEON.

ORNL-Entrance-SignOAK RIDGE — With the signing of a memorandum of agreement, the Oak Ridge Reservation officially becomes one of 20 planned core ecological observatory sites that will provide valuable information to help scientists better understand how the ecosystem breathes.

The agreement between the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation sets into motion the Walker Branch Watershed portion of the $434 million project known as the National Ecological Observatory Network, or NEON. DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory will provide guidance on locating towers and associated instrumentation and the location of sampling plots. The Oak Ridge Reservation, which consists of 20,000 acres, is the only DOE NEON site.

“The Oak Ridge Reservation is a giant outdoor scientific laboratory,” the agreement states. “It contains large blocks of forest and diverse vegetation communities that offer unparalleled resources for ecosystem-level and large-scale research.

“Major national and international collaborative research initiatives use it to address issues such as biodiversity, sustainable development, global climate change, innovative power conductors, solar radiation monitoring, ecological recovery, and monitoring and remediation.”

Pat Mulholland, a senior scientist in ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division, noted the significance of the inclusion of the Oak Ridge Reservation in this project.

“Being selected as a core site to represent the Southern Appalachians and Cumberland Plateau domain is a reflection of the unique environmental and infrastructure qualities and the long history of excellent research conducted at Walker Branch Watershed,” Mulholland said. Walker Branch comprises a 240-acre forest drained by two headwater streams within the Oak Ridge Reservation.

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Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory