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Overarching research question that guides CZO design

How does variability in climate, lithology and disturbance influence CZ structure and function over long (e.g., landscape evolution) and short (e.g., hydrologic event) time scales?

Goals of the Catalina-Jemez CZO

  • Develop a cross-disciplinary, multi-scale, natural laboratory for collaborative observation and modeling.
  • Measure the effects of climate, lithology, and disturbance variation on Critical Zone structure, function and evolution in the water-limited southwestern US.
  • Focus on environmental gradients within regional watersheds.
  • Develop a predictive-mechanistic understanding of how these systems affect environmental sustainability in a region of rapidly growing population growth and diminishing freshwater supplies.

Urban population growth throughout the southwestern US is sustained largely by water supplies that derive from upland catchments in nearby montane landscapes.  Southwestern mountain belts in Southern Arizona, for example, which vary widely in lithology, are sometimes termed "Sky Islands" because their higher elevations receive more annual precipitation, support greater vegetation biomass and have higher rates of net primary production than the surrounding "sea" of desert semi-arid to arid landscape. Ecosystems and soil development at high elevations in the Southwest also support domestic forestry, range and recreation industries.  Global climate models predict progressive warming and drying of the U.S. Southwest overall, and this is expected to affect the composition and health of ecosystems across the elevation range, e.g., through stress-induced disturbances such as insect outbreaks and wildfire.

Southwestern mountain systems are nonetheless expected to continue to serve as the water supply conduit to growing basin cities, in addition to supporting forestry, range and recreational activities.  The need to understand their capacity to do so in the context of changing climate motivates Catalina-Jemez CZO research.  The quantity and quality of water in upland catchments and receiving metropolitan areas depend on the processes that partition and transform it during its reactive transport through the CZ.  However, the present-day hydrologic, geomorphic and (bio)geochemical behavior of the CZ depends, in turn, on its structure, which has evolved over geological time scales in response to long-term climatic and tectonic forcing.  Therefore, a basic understanding of contemporary CZ behavior requires developing a conceptual model of how it has evolved to its current state, and how it will continue to evolve into the future.  Such evolution includes the formation of hydrologic flow paths, the (bio)geochemical differentiation of the weathering profile, and the production and erosion of soil-mantled hillslopes.  Our research involves field and laboratory based measurements in addition to computational modeling designed to understand how these processes are coupled over hydrologic event and landscape evolution time scales.

 


Gallery

Catalina

Santa Catalina Mountains Photos


Research News

FEATURED NATIONALLY

NSF News Release: What’s killing trees during droughts? Scientists have new answers.

14 Aug 2017 - Researchers find that carbon starvation and hydraulic failure kill drought-stricken trees.

FEATURED

AGU Horton Research Grant Award

03 Jul 2017 - Ravindra Dwivedi received the prestigious 2017 AGU Horton Research Grant to support his CZO work in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

FEATURED NATIONALLY

The frontier beneath our feet — an AGU commentary on the critical zone

21 Apr 2017 - AGU has published a collection of commentaries highlighting the important role Earth and space science research plays in society.

FEATURED NATIONALLY

2017 CZO Webinar Series: Critical Zone and Society

06 Apr 2017 - 2017 CZO Webinar Series: Critical Zone and Society.

FEATURED

Post-Wildfire Erosion Can Sculpt Forested Mountains

19 Apr 2016 - Researchers from the UA Santa Catalina Mountains & Jemez River Basin Critical Zone Observatory did before-and-after studies of how severe...

FEATURED

EOS: Bark Beetles Cause Big Tree Die-Offs, but Streams Flow Steadily

10 Mar 2016 - EOS article written by Lily Strelich features research conducted by CZO investigators and their colleagues, which shows that bark beetle epidemics...

FEATURED

The 2016 MG Anderson Award

03 Mar 2016 - The 2016 MG Anderson Award for Outstanding Paper in Hydrological Processes, Wiley is presented to Jemez-Catalina CZO investigators.

FEATURED

EOS Opinion: Understanding Ecosystem Services from a Geosciences Perspective

22 Jan 2016 - Assessment of ecosystem services can be improved by including broader spatial and temporal scales of geosciences perspectives.

FEATURED

Forests Worldwide Vulnerable to Drought, UA Researcher Says

28 Aug 2015 - David Breshears was interviewed by Sara Hammond about forest vulnerability to growing risks of drought and heat-induced die-off. Read and listen...

FEATURED

Jon Chorover to speak at international workshop on hydro-biogeochemical processes

16 Jul 2015 - Jon Chorover of the Santa Catalina Mountains & Jemez River Basin CZO has been invited to talk at the Hydro-Biogeochemical Processes: Mechanisms,...

FEATURED

Soil, Not Dirt: A Digital Journey Connecting Soils, Plants, and Climate by Rebecca Lybrand

08 Jun 2015 - Join Rebecca on an exciting GoPro adventure to study soil in the desert, grasslands, and pine forests of Arizona.

FEATURED

Critical Zone Profiles - Meet the people doing CZO science (Catalina-Jemez CZO)

19 Mar 2015 - Get a sense of the people and the work. Several members of the Catalina-Jemez CZO are profiled here, including students and professors.

FEATURED

Critical Zone Services: Expanding Context, Constraints, and Currency beyond Ecosystem Services

10 Feb 2015 - Critical Zone Services: Expanding Context, Constraints, and Currency beyond Ecosystem Services

FEATURED

Predicting post-wildfire erosion better

08 Dec 2014 - Jon Pelletier and his graduate student Caitlin Orem's research on the post Las Conchas fire erosion was highlighed in the Arizona Daily Star...


CZOs at AGU 2016

22 Nov 2016 - CZOs at AGU 2016: Agenda and award recipients

Critical Zone Q&A with researcher Adrian Harpold

19 Oct 2016 - University of Nevada Reno's Adrian Harpold reflects on his past and present time researching at Critical Zone Observatories.

EOS: Taking the Pulse of the Earth’s Surface Systems

04 Dec 2015 - Taking the Pulse of the Earth's Surface Systems In September of 2014, Laurel Larsen (UC Berkley), Elizabeth Hajek (Penn State), and others...

Joint AGU-ESA Event Brings Together Collaborative Networks

17 Aug 2015 - Members of AGU and the Ecological Society of America came together in their first joint event to discuss opportunities for research collaboration.

CZO Ecology Session at ESA 2015 Meeting

16 Jul 2015 - A session entitled 'Ecology in the Critical Zone" will take place at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) 2015 Meeting held  from August...

More News >


Example Publications

FEATURED

Regional sensitivities of seasonal snowpack to elevation, aspect, and vegetation cover in western North America. Christopher J. Tennant, Adrian A. Harpold, Kathleen Ann Lohse, Sarah E. Godsey, Benjamin T. Crosby, Laurel G. Larsen, Paul D. Brooks, Robert W. Van Kirk, Nancy F. Glenn (2017): Water Resources Research 53 Cross-CZO National

FEATURED

Soil organic carbon partitioning and Δ14C variation in desert and conifer ecosystems of southern Arizona. Lybrand R.A., Heckman K., and Rasmussen C. (2017): Biogeochemistry 134(3): 261-277

FEATURED NATIONALLY

Impacts of hydraulic redistribution on grass–tree competition vs facilitation in a semi-arid savanna. Barron-Gafford G.A., Sanchez-Cañete E.P., Minor R.L., Hendryx S.M., Lee E., Sutter L.F., Tran N., Parra E., Colella T., Murphy P.C., Hamerlynck E.P., Kumar P. and Scott R.L. (2017): New Phytologist 215(4): 1451–1461 Cross-CZO

FEATURED NATIONALLY

A multi-species synthesis of physiological mechanisms in drought-induced tree mortality. Adams H.D., Zeppel M.J.B., Anderegg W.R.L., Hartmann H., Landhausser S.M., Tissue D.T., Huxman T.E., Hudson P.J., Franz T.E., Allen C.D., Anderegg L.D.L., Barron-Gafford G.A., Beerling D.J., Breshears D.D., Brodribb T.J., Bugmann H., Cobb R.C., Collins A.D., Dickman L.T., Duan H., Ewers B.E., Galiano L., Galvez D.A., Garcia-Forner N., Gaylord M.L., Germino M.J., Gessler A., Hacke U.G., Hakamada R., Hector A., Jenkins M.W., Kane J.M., Kolb T.E., Law D.J., Lewis J.D., Limousin J-M., Love D.M., Macalady A.K., Marti­nez-Vilalta J., Mencuccini M., Mitchell P.J., Muss J.D., O'Brien M.J., O'Grady A.P., Pangle R.E., Pinkard E.A., Piper F.I., Plaut J.A., Pockman W.T., Quirk J., Reinhardt K., Ripullone F., Ryan M.G., Sala A., Sevanto S., Sperry J.S., Vargas R., Vennetier M., Way D.A., Xu C., Yepez E.A., and McDowell N.G. (2017): Nature Ecology & Evolution 1: 1285–1291

FEATURED

Asymmetry of weathering-limited hillslopes: the importance of diurnal covariation in solar insolation and temperature. Pelletier J.D. and Swetnam T.L. (2017): Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 42(9): 1408–1418

FEATURED NATIONALLY

Geochemical evolution of the Critical Zone across variable time scales informs concentration-discharge relationships: Jemez River Basin Critical Zone Observatory. McIntosh J.C., Schaumberg C., Perdrial J., Harpold A., Vázquez-Ortega A., Rasmussen C., Vinson D., Zapata-Rios X., Brooks P.D., Meixner T., Pelletier J., Derry L., Chorover J. (2017): Water Resources Research 53(5): 4169–4196 Cross-CZO National

FEATURED

Coevolution of soil and topography across a semiarid cinder cone chronosequence. Rasmussen C., McGuire L., Dhakal P., Pelletier J.D. (2017): CATENA 156: 338-352

FEATURED NATIONALLY

Topographically driven differences in energy and water constrain climatic control on forest carbon sequestration. Swetnam T.L., Brooks P.D., Barnard H.R., Harpold A.A., and Gallo E.L. (2017): Ecosphere 8(4): e01797 Cross-CZO

FEATURED

Improving the accuracy of the gradient method for determining soil carbon dioxide efflux. Sánchez-Cañete E.P., Scott R.L., van Haren J., and Barron-Gafford G.A. (2017): Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 122(1): 50-64

FEATURED NATIONALLY

Prevalence and magnitude of groundwater use by vegetation: a global stable isotope meta-analysis. Jaivime Evaristo and Jeffrey J. McDonnell (2017): Scientific Reports 7 Cross-CZO National

FEATURED

Ecosystem Composition Controls the Fate of Rare Earth Elements during Incipient Soil Genesis. Zaharescu D.G., Burghelea C.I., Dontsova K., Presler J.K., Maier R.M., Huxman T., Domanik K.J., Hunt E.A., Amistadi M.K., Gaddis E.E., Palacios-Menendez M.A., Vaquera-Ibarra M.O. and Chorover J. (2017): Scientific Reports 7: 43208

FEATURED NATIONALLY

Expanding the role of reactive transport models in critical zone processes. Li Li, Kate Maher, Alexis Navarre-Sitchler, Jenny Druhan, Christof Meile, Corey Lawrence, Joel Moore, Julia Perdrial, Pamela Sullivan, Aaron Thompson, Lixin Jin, Edward W. Bolton, Susan L. Brantley, William E. Dietrich, K. Ulrich Mayer, Carl I. Steefel, Albert Valocchi, John Zachara, Benjamin Kocar, Jennifer Mcintosh, Benjamin M. Tutolo, Mukesh Kumar, Eric Sonnenthal, Chen Bao, Joe Beisman (2017): Earth-Science Reviews, 165:280-301 Cross-CZO

FEATURED

Constraining frequency–magnitude–area relationships for rainfall and flood discharges using radar-derived precipitation estimates: example applications in the Upper and Lower Colorado River basins, USA. Orem C.A. and Pelletier J.D. (2016): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 20: 4483-4501

FEATURED

Colloids and Organic Matter Complexation Control Trace Metal Concentration-Discharge Relationships in Marshall Gulch Stream Waters. Trostle K.D., Runyon J.R., Pohlmann M.A., Redfield S.E., Pelletier J., McIntosh J., and Chorover J. (2016): Water Resources Research 52(10): 7931–7944

FEATURED

The predominance of post-wildfire erosion in the long-term denudation of the Valles Caldera, New Mexico. Orem C.A. and Pelletier J.D. (2016): Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 121(5): 843–864

FEATURED

The influence of Holocene vegetation changes on topography and erosion rates: a case study at Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed, Arizona. Pelletier J. D., Nichols M. H., and Nearing M. A. (2016): Earth Surface Dynamics 4: 471-488

FEATURED

Tree Morphologic Plasticity Explains Deviation from Metabolic Scaling Theory in Semi-Arid Conifer Forests, Southwestern USA. Swetnam T.L., O’Connor C.D., Lynch A.M. (2016): PLoS ONE 11(7): e0157582

FEATURED

Influence of climate variability on water partitioning and effective energy and mass transfer in a semi-arid critical zone. Zapata-Rios X., Brooks P.D., Troch P.A., McIntosh J., and Rasmussen C. (2016): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 20: 1103-1115

FEATURED

Topographic correlations with soil and regolith thickness from shallow-seismic refraction constraints across upland hillslopes in the Valles Caldera, New Mexico. Olyphant J., Pelletier J.D., and Johnson R. (2016): Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 41(12): 1684–1696

FEATURED

U-series isotopic signatures of soils and headwater streams in a semi-arid complex volcanic terrain. Huckle D., Ma L., McIntosh J., Vázquez-Ortega A., Rasmussen C., Chorover J. (2016): Chemical Geology 445: 68-83

FEATURED

Multi-scale predictions of massive conifer mortality due to chronic temperature rise. McDowell N.G., Williams A.P., Xu C., Pockman W.T., Dickman L.T., Sevanto S., Pangle R., Limousin J., Plaut J., Mackay D.S., Ogee J., Domec J.C., Allen C.D., Fisher R.A., Jiang X.,Muss J.D., Breshears D.D., Rauscher S.A. and Koven C. (2016): Nature Climate Change 6 (3): 295-300

FEATURED

Understanding ecosystem services from a geosciences perspective. Field J.P., Breshears D.D., Law D.J., Villegas J.C., López-Hoffman L., Brooks P.D., Chorover J., and Pelletier J.D. (2016): EOS 97

FEATURED

Solid-phase redistribution of rare earth elements in hillslope pedons subjected to different hydrologic fluxes. Vázquez-Ortega A., Huckle D., Perdrial J., Amistadi M.K., Durcik M., Rasmussen C., McIntosh J., Chorover J. (2016): Chemical Geology 426: 1-18

FEATURED

Influence of terrain aspect on water partitioning, vegetation structure, and vegetation greening in high elevation catchments in northern New Mexico. Zapata-Rios X., Brooks P.D., Troch P.A., McIntosh J. and Guo Q. (2016): Ecohydrology 9(5): 782-795 Cross-CZO National

FEATURED

Hydrological partitioning in the critical zone: Recent advances and opportunities for developing transferable understanding of water cycle dynamics. Brooks P.D., Chorover J., Fan Y., Godsey S.E., Maxwell R.M., McNamara J.P., and Tague C. (2015): Water Resources Research 51 (9): 6973-6987 Cross-CZO

FEATURED

Critical Zone Services: Expanding Context, Constraints, and Currency beyond Ecosystem Services. Field J.P., Breshears D.D., Law D.J., Villegas J.C., López-Hoffman L., Brooks P.D., Chorover J., Barron-Gafford G.A., Gallery R.E., Litvak M.E., Lybrand R.A., McIntosh J.C., Meixner T., Niu G-Y., Papuga S.A., Pelletier J.D., Rasmussen C.R., and Troch P.A (2015): Vadose Zone Journal 14(1)


Designing a network of critical zone observatories to explore the living skin of the terrestrial Earth. Brantley, S.L., McDowell, W.H., Dietrich, W.E., White, T.S., Kumar, P., Anderson, S., Chorover, J., Lohse, K.A., Bales, R.C., Richter, D., Grant, G., and Gaillardet, J. (2017): Earth Surface Dynamics Cross-CZO National

Study of the Spatiotemporal Characteristics of Meltwater Contribution to the Total Runoff in the Upper Changjiang River Basin. Fang Y.-H., Zhang X., Niu G.-Y., Zeng W., Zhu J., Zhang T. (2017): Water 9(3): 165

Reviews and syntheses: On the roles trees play in building and plumbing the Critical Zone. Brantley, Susan L., David M. Eissenstat, Jill A. Marshall, Sarah E. Godsey, Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, Diana L. Karwan, Shirley A. Papuga, Joshua Roering, Todd E. Dawson, Jaivime Evaristo, Oliver Chadwick, Jeffrey J. McDonnell, Kathleen C. Weathers (2017): Biogeosciences Discussions Cross-CZO National

Pore water chemistry reveals gradients in mineral transformation across a model basaltic hillslope. Pohlmann M., Dontsova K., Root R., Ruiz J., Troch P., and Chorover J. (2016): Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 17(6): 2054–2069

Recent tree die-off has little effect on streamflow in contrast to expected increases from historical studies. Biederman J.A., Somor A.J., Harpold A.A., Gutmann E.D., Breshears D.D., Troch P.A., Gochis D.J., Scott R.l., Meddens A.J.H., and Brooks P.D. (2015): Water Resources Research 51(12): 9775-9789 Cross-CZO

The effects of catastrophic wildfire on water quality along a river continuum. Reale J.K., Van Horn D.J., Condon K.E., and Dahm C.N. (2015): Freshwater Science 34(4): 1426-1442

Key Edaphic Properties Largely Explain Temporal and Geographic Variation in Soil Microbial Communities across Four Biomes. Docherty K.M., Borton H.M., Espinosa N., Gebhardt M., Gil-Loaiza J., Gutknecht J.L.M., Maes P.W., Mott B.M., Parnell J.J., Purdy G., Rodrigues P.A.P., Stanish L.F., Walser O.N., Gallery R.E. (2015): PLoS ONE 10(11): e0135352

More Publications >