Associate Professor Michigan State University, United States
Background/Question/Methods Environmental observatories have the potential to provide society with much needed information on how our planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems are responding to climate change. Some examples of such environmental observatories include Australia’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), the South African Environment Observation Network (SAEON), and the United States’ National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Without an understanding of how the biodiversity and ecosystems on which these observatory sites are situated have been impacted by past and current human use, society cannot fully unlock the potential insights for management offered by such data. Although early planning of NEON recognized the importance of spatially explicit data on human land use of sites, budgetary cuts during build out of the network led to the lack of data collection on this important ecological driver. To fill this knowledge gap, we are building a database of historic and current land use of NEON sites. To discover spatially explicit land use information, we took a multi-faceted approach consisting of searching geospatial databases, conducting literature reviews to find archival maps and records, and contacting individual researchers and land managers. All data were georeferenced and digitized using QGIS.
Results/Conclusions To date our efforts have resulted in detailed spatially explicit land use information for 70% (33 out of a total of 47) of the terrestrial sites across NEON. Sites with spatially explicit land use data include forested, tundra, shrub/scrub, rangeland, and grassland sites. Land uses include grazing, prescribed burns, logging, mining, mounds from indigenous dwelling sites, etc. In the spirit of FAIR data principles, these data will be made publicly available. Also, data provenance for this project includes the adoption of “level” designations and terminology adapted from NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). The original data (Level - LO) are made up of digitized shapefiles of maps with raw data extracted from sources and all land use information (e.g., duration, type of land use, etc.). Data have also been curated for standardized variables (Level 2 - L2) that summarize variables such as time since disturbance, duration of land use (temporal range), intensity (e.g., number of animal units per hectare for grazing, board feet removed for logging), and frequency of disturbance. We anticipate L2 data will be especially helpful for researchers conducting cross-site analyses. We anticipate extending our data collation across all terrestrial and aquatic sites.