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The Colorado East River Community Observatory Data Collection

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The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Colorado East River Community Observatory (ER) in the Upper Colorado River Basin was established in 2015 as a representative mountainous, snow-dominated watershed to study hydrobiogeochemical responses to hydrological perturbations in headwater systems. The ER is characterized by steep elevation, geologic, hydrologic and vegetation gradients along floodplain, montane, subalpine, and alpine life zones, which makes it an ideal location for researchers to understand how different mountain subsystems contribute to overall watershed behaviour. The ER has both long-term and spatially-extensive observations and experimental campaigns carried out by the Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area (SFA), led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and researchers from over 30 organizations who conduct cross-disciplinary process-based investigations and modelling of watershed behaviour. The heterogeneous data generated at the ER include hydrological, genomic, biogeochemical, climate, vegetation, geological, and remote sensing data, which combined with model inputs and outputs comprise a collection of datasets and value-added products within a mountainous watershed that span multiple spatiotemporal scales, compartments, and life zones. Within 5 years of collection, these datasets have revealed insights into numerous aspects of watershed function such as factors influencing snow accumulation and melt timing, water balance partitioning, and impacts of floodplain biogeochemistry and hillslope ecohydrology on riverine geochemical exports. Data generated by the SFA are managed and curated through its Data Management Framework. The SFA has an open data policy, and over 70 ER datasets are publicly available through relevant data repositories. A public interactive map of data collection sites run by the SFA is available to inform the broader community about SFA field activities. Here, we describe the ER and the SFA measurement network, present the public data collection generated by the SFA and partner institutions, and highlight the value of collecting multidisciplinary multiscale measurements in representative catchment observatories.

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