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Our Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) is one of six environmental observatories funded by NSF. We focus on Critical Zone (CZ) interactions that help drive models of carbon/water cycling, arid/semi-arid ecohydrology, and landscape evolution.

The Catalina-Jemez CZO has been funded since 2009 and is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Approximately 35 investigators, staff, graduate and undergraduate students and collaborators are involved in our research.

We are developing an interdisciplinary observatory in the southwestern US to improve our understanding of the function, structure and co-evolution of biota, soils, and landforms that comprise CZ. The observatory is designed as a natural laboratory for the earth science community to test hypotheses related to CZ function in relation to climatic and water cycle variation.

Our CZ Observatory (CZO) is designed to examine the impacts of space-time variability in energy and water flux on coupled CZ processes along two well-constrained climate gradients. The first is on rhyolitic parent material in the Jemez River Basin of northern New Mexico (Jemez) and the second is on granite and schist bedrock within the Santa Catalina Mountains in southern Arizona (Catalina). Measurement, modeling, and experimentation at sites that vary in parent rock, elevation, aspect, slope, soil development, and vegetation will enable quantification of the feedbacks between energy and mass fluxes (driven by chemical and physical gradients) and measured components of CZ structure.

To identify the couplings among physical, chemical, and biological processes, our research integrates four crosscutting science themes: Ecohydrology and Hydrologic Partitioning, Subsurface Biogeochemistry, Landscape Evolution and Surface Water Dynamics.

Discoveries made at the Catalina-Jemez CZO will improve our ability to predict CZ response to changes in climate and land cover. We invite new investigators throughout the global earth sciences community to conduct novel and collaborative research at the Catalina-Jemez CZO.

Santa Catalina Mountains & Jemez River Basin CZO

Arizona/New Mexico
Established 2009

"We focus on measuring geomorphic, hydrologic, and biogeochemical interactions that drive theory and modeling of critical zone evolution."

Science Questions:

  • How does variability in energy input and related mass flux influence critical zone structure and function?
  • How do feedbacks between critical zone structure and the cycling of water and carbon alter short-term hydrologic response and long-term landscape evolution?

Our CZO comprises elevation (climate) gradients on rhyolite, granite and schist in northern New Mexico and Southern Arizona.

Our research is especially pertinent to climate variations of arid and semi-arid systems.