Soil moisture data are critical to understanding biophysical and societal impacts of climate change. However, soil moisture data availability is limited due to sparse in situ monitoring, particularly in mountain regions. Here we present methods, specifications, and initial results from the interactive Roaring Fork Observation Network (iRON), a soil, weather, and ecological monitoring system in the Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Initiated in 2012, the network is currently composed of nine stations, distributed in elevation from 1,890 to 3,680 m, that continually collect and transmit measurements of soil moisture at three depths (5, 20, and 50 cm), soil temperature (20 cm), and meteorological conditions. Time-lapse cameras for phenological observations, snow depth sensors, and periodic co-located vegetation surveys complement selected stations. iRON was conceived and designed with the joint purpose of supporting bioclimatic research and resource management objectives in a snow-dominated watershed. In the short term, iRON data can be applied to assessing the impact of temperature and precipitation on seasonal soil moisture conditions and trends. As more data are collected over time, iRON will help improve understanding of climate-driven changes to soil, vegetation, and hydrologic conditions. In presenting this network and its initial data, we hope that the network's elevational gradient will contribute to bioclimatic mountain research, while active collaboration with partners in resource management may provide a model for science-practice interaction in support of long-term monitoring.
- resource management
- soil moisture