Every Tuesday during the winter, a group of intrepid researchers braves winds of up to 160 mph and temperatures as low as minus 20, hiking, skiing or snowshoeing four miles up Niwot Ridge west of Boulder to monitor the health of our high mountains.
Amy Miller (center) and Katie Suding (right), with other research team members, conduct a study involving nitrogen deposition on a tundra of Niwot Ridge. (Photo courtesy William Bowman, INSTAAR)
The measurements are part of an intensive study looking at ecological change on Niwot Ridge, both natural and human-caused, over decades. Now, thanks to a $6.8 million renewal grant to CU Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) from the National Science Foundation (NSF), research at the Niwot Ridge study area – one of NSF’s 25 Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites in North America – will continue for another six years.
The Niwot Ridge site is invaluable to researchers. It is the only LTER site on the continent comprising alpine and sub-alpine environments. The site is northwest of Nederland, Colorado, includes Green Lakes Valley (part of the City of Boulder watershed) and abuts the Continental Divide at more than 13,000 feet in elevation. The site lies just uphill from CU Boulder’s Mountain Research Station, a part of INSTAAR.
Located at an elevation considered extremely sensitive to climate change, Niwot Ridge has been designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve.
Zoë Rom reports more on the NWT LTER at CU Boulder Today.