NEON Data Used to Better Understand Dew’s Vital Role in Ecosystem Health

Researchers utilized NEON data to understand how dew formation can help ecosystems survive droughts

CHICAGO, Illinois (July 31, 2019) — Now that the National Ecological Observatory Network is operational, the continental-sized network funded by the National Science Foundation and operated by Battelle can fulfill its mission: Provide free, high-quality, standardized ecological data for scientists around the world to use for important research projects.

As that data becomes available, studies are beginning to be completed. The first study that examines dew formation at a continental scale is giving scientists a better understanding of how different ecosystems respond to changes in climate—and could help them better predict future responses to increased drought frequency.

The study, "Dew Frequency Across the U.S. from a Network of In Situ Radiometers," takes advantage of new continental-scale sensor data from some of NEON’s 81 sites across the country. It was led by François Ritter, a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and co-authored by Max Berkelhammer (UIC assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences) and Daniel Beysens (research director of the physics and mechanics of heterogeneous media laboratory at Universite de Recherce, Paris Sciences et Lettres).

Using data from micrometeorology/flux towers at NEON’s terrestrial field sites, Ritter and his team gathered information on relative humidity, wind speed and air and canopy temperatures for 11 grassland ecosystems and 19 forest ecosystems from 2015 to 2017. The study demonstrated how dew formation, direction and yield can be estimated from in situ sensor data - methods that will enable researchers to look at dew formation on scales not easily achieved using traditional observational methods.

"The NEON data are invaluable for continental-scale studies like mine," Ritter explained. "Data are collected using the same methods and timescales at every site, so we can easily compare results across the different ecosystems. This will help us model how ecosystems will respond to water stress in the future and predict which ecosystems will survive.”

This study – and future studies on global dew formation – could help researchers update climate change models to include the effects of dew in different ecosystems. With the prediction that changing climate conditions will result in hotter summer days and more frequent and intense drought periods, dew’s ability to help plants reduce water stress might be able to help ecosystems survive these drought conditions.  

"This will help us model how ecosystems will respond to water stress in the future and predict which ecosystems will survive," said Ritter.

About NEON

The NEON program, managed by Battelle for the National Science Foundation, is a continental-scale ecological observation facility that collects and provides open data from 81 field sites across the United States that characterize and quantify how our nation's ecosystems are changing. The data will contribute to a better understanding and more accurate forecasting of how human activities impact ecosystems and how society can more effectively address critical ecological questions and issues. The data is available for any researcher to use. Learn more at

About Battelle

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Jul 31, 2019


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