Niwot Ridge LTER

NWT teacher and student identifying flowers.

Key Research Findings:

NWT research indicates that alpine ecosystems provide important early warning signs of global climate change. Alpine plants and animals survive on the razor's edge of environmental tolerances, making them more sensitive to changes in climate than downstream ecosystems.
Alpine environments are sensitive indicators of air pollution.
Scientists at NWT have documented how high-elevation mountain ecosystems serve as "water towers" to store seasonal snow until it is released later in the year during snowmelt runoff.


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.

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

Research Topics:

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

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