You are here


Niwot Ridge LTER

Site Image
NWT teacher and student identifying flowers.
Niwot Ridge (40° 3'N. 105° 36'W.) is located approximately 35 km west of Boulder, Colorado, with the entire study site lying above 3000 m elevation. There is a cirque glacier (Arikaree Glacier [~90K photo and caption]), extensive alpine tundra, a variety of glacial landforms, glacial lakes and moraines, cirques and talus slopes, patterned ground, and permafrost. The research area is bounded on the west by the Continental Divide, with runoff on the two sides being destined for the Colorado and Mississippi Rivers.

The alpine study area is reached by an unimproved road from the Mountain Research Station (2895 m) which leads to within 2 km of the main tundra research site, the Saddle (3525 m). The D-1 research site(3743 m), for which climate records are continuous from 1952, lies a farther 3 km from the road head. The Martinelli study area (3380 m) is located 1 km southwest of the Saddle, in the forest-tundra ecotone. The Green Lakes Valley lies immediately south of the western half of Niwot Ridge. It includes the Arikaree Glacier at its head (3798 m), and the wetland, Green Lake 4, and Albion research sites. The Green Lakes Valley and Martinelli sites are all within the City of Boulder Watershed which is closed to public access. Niwot Ridge, including the main alpine study site, is part of the Roosevelt National Forest and has been designated a Biosphere Reserve (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO) and an Experimental Ecology Reserve (USDA Forest Service).

Short history: 

Niwot Ridge was established as a site in the NSF sponsored Long-Term Ecological Research Program in 1980.

Short research topics: 

Patterns and controls of nutrient cycling; trace gas dynamics, plant primary productivity and species composition; geomorphology, and paleoecology.

Niwot Ridge LTER Science An overarching theme of current research is the impact of climate change on Colorado tundra ecosystems, with a particular focus on the effects of altered snowpack and rainfall regimes. New facilities (e.g., the tundra laboratory), new research initiatives (e.g., the 100-year snow fence, the subnivean laboratory), and centralization of data management activities will assist us in meeting our research objectives. Routine Measurements Routine monitoring/measurements include (but are not limited to): Meteorological/Climatological air temperature precipitation relative humidity wind speed and direction solar radiation Hydrological stream discharge snowpack ablation snow water equivalent soil moisture Biogeochemical atmospheric deposition [~125K photo and caption] snowpack chemistry surface water quality Other Research The bulk of the past and current research conducted on Niwot Ridge is of a less routine (but of a no less significant) nature and includes: Meteorological/Climatological lake-ice clearance and freeze-up soil temperatures [~76K photo and caption] Biogeochemical atmospheric N loading soil physical and chemical properties wood, litter, and root decomposition soil and microbial N transformations microbial respiration methane and nitrous oxide fluxes [~69K photo and caption] plant biomass N & storage Biological aboveground phytomass [~78K photo and caption] plant phenology plant species composition small mammal herbivore surveys soil microarthropod densities fossil insect assemblages

4001 Discovery Drive
UCB 450
303 492-2594
Alpine Tundra
elevation comment: 
Data Source: Collins/Waide. class data. 2008. not published yet.
latitude comment: 
Data Source: LTER Site Characteristics Database.
Data Source: LTER Site Characteristics Database.
ecosystem comment: 
Data Source: GreenLand, D., G. G. Goodin., R. C., Smith. 2003. An Introduction to Climate Variability and Ecosystem Response. p8. In Climate Variability and Ecosystem Response at Long-Term Ecological Research Sites. Oxford University Press



Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer