At the Toolik Field Station nestled in Alaska's Brooks Range some 158 miles north of the Arctic Circle, researchers are setting up a project to work in conjunction with sites across the United States to monitor long-term changes to North America's ecosystems, The New York Times reports. The research is being conducted by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), an initiative supported by the National Science Foundation. It seeks to piece together a comprehensive view of ecological change across the continent over the next 30 years.
The station set up at Toolik is one of six planned in Alaska and 60 throughout the nation. For the next three decades, a tower built at the site will collect information relating to solar radiation, greenhouse gases, climate change and invasive species, among other data.
Arctic research provides an invaluable perspective on climate change; the vast stores of frozen carbon locked in Arctic tundra have the ability to play a major role in the future of the earth's climate, requiring consistent monitoring to determine the scope and causes of environmental conditions.
Michael SanClements and Jeff Taylor, two staff scientists with NEON, write from the Toolik Field Station:
In this era of rapid environmental change driven by the pressures of expanding human population and a changing climate, long-term ecological research is more important than ever. Short-term data sets are like snapshots of the environment at a single point in time … It may not be as sexy as the Mars Curiosity Rover or a big field campaign to an exotic place, but sustained, long-term observations are essential to answering many scientific questions and may one day be used by future generations to answer questions that haven't been asked yet.
Read more at The New York Times.