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Our focus is on watershed currencies that are mediated by the critical zone and that link atmosphere, the critical zone, rivers, watersheds, ocean, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Fig 1. The critical zone of vegetation (green), soil and weathered bedrock with perched water table (red to blue), overlying fresh bedrock (grey) that exchanges currencies (arrows) with atmosphere (cloud) and mediates effluents (curved arrow) to a channel network (lines) which drain to ocean (blue triangle).

California's Eel River Critical Zone Observatory is rooted in intensive field monitoring in the critical zone, which follows watershed currencies (water, solutes, gasses, biota, sediment, energy, and momentum) through a subsurface physical environment and microbial ecosystem of the critical zone into the terrestrial ecosystem, up into the atmosphere, and out through drainage networks to the coastal ocean (Figure 1).

Soil, forest, and riverine ecosystems interact with these currencies, mediating the delivery of nutrients to the sea. CZO investigations will co-evolve with a synthesis model that mechanistically links the critical zone to atmospheric processes, watershed routing, ecosystems dynamics, stream flow, and coastal processes in order to investigate fundamental questions and to provide a modeling tool for management issues.


The Eel River CZO is examining:
  1. Does lithology control rock moisture availability to plants and therefore overall resilience of vegetation to climate change in seasonally dry environments?
  2. How are solute and gas effluents from hillslopes influenced by biota in changing moisture regimes?
  3. What controls the spatial extent of wetted channels in the channel networks of seasonally dry environments?
  4. Will changes in critical zone currencies induced by climate or land use change lead to threshold-type switches in river and coastal ecosystems?

Our observatory operates at four distinct scales: 1) the hillslope (our critical zone workshop), 2) the stream reach (where critical zone currencies dictate water supply, extent of wetted channel, and the emergent aquatic ecosystem), 3) the whole watershed scale (nearly 10,000 km2), and 4) the regional scale (>13,000 km2). Read more about our field areas.

Motivated by anticipated increase in climate extremes (especially extended drought) and accelerating societal demand for water, we focus on filling knowledge gaps that not only inhibit our ability to forecast the magnitude of future change of systems, but even the sign of that change. We are also developing a modular coupled model (AWESOM) which will provide local predictions over a regional scale and that can be used to ask “what if” questions about possible future climate and landuse scenarios and the consequences on runoff and ecosystem states.

Fig 1. The critical zone of vegetation (green), soil and weathered bedrock with perched water table (red to blue), overlying fresh bedrock (grey) that exchanges currencies (arrows) with atmosphere (cloud) and mediates effluents (curved arrow) to a channel network (lines) which drain to ocean (blue triangle).

Angelo Reserve


Research News

FEATURED NATIONALLY

CZ colleagues: Please contact us about proposals for NSF’s CZ Collaborative Network, due 02 Dec 2019

08 Jul 2019 - CZO will end Nov 2020, succeeded by the “CZ Collaborative Network”. Let’s explore how the CZ community can build upon the CZOs via new NSF proposals.

FEATURED NATIONALLY

CZOs at AGU 2019

19 Jun 2019 - A list of CZ-related sessions, abstracts and events at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting.

FEATURED NATIONALLY

EOS: Answer to California Landscape Riddle Lies Underground

31 May 2019 - Scientists link vegetation mosaics in California to patterns of weathered bedrock.

FEATURED

CZOs at AGU 2018

19 Nov 2018 - The 2018 AGU Fall Meeting will be held December 10-14 in Washington, D.C.

FEATURED

NSF Discovery articles focus on the CZOs.

10 May 2018 - The Discoveries section of the National Science Foundation's website on Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs).

FEATURED

Recent paper by Rempe and Dietrich on rock moisture featured by NSF and others

02 Mar 2018 - A recent paper on rock moisture by Danielle Rempe and Bill Dietrich of the Eel River CZO is been featured on NSF News site, SF Chronicle, others

FEATURED

On World Water Day, scientists peer into rivers to answer water availability questions

21 Mar 2016 - The following is part nine in a series on the National Science Foundation's Critical Zone Observatories (CZO) Network.

FEATURED

The critical zone: Studying where all of life happens

18 Feb 2016 - Science isn’t generally considered an extreme sport, but you wouldn’t know that by watching researchers in the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory.

FEATURED

Recent study underscores the environmental cost of illegal marijuana cultivation

29 Jul 2015 - Eel River CZO ecohydrologist Sally Thompson and ecologists Stephanie Carlson and Mary Power worked with The Nature Conservancy to explore the...

FEATURED

Ecology From Treetop To Bedrock:  Human Influence In Earth’s Critical Zone

17 Jul 2015 - An Organized Session On Critical Zone Ecology At The 100th Annual Meeting Of The Ecological Society Of America August 9-14, 2015 In Baltimore, Md.

FEATURED

Critical Zone Profiles - Meet the people doing CZO science (Eel River CZO)

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


Congratulations Jill Marshall on receiving the 2018 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award

06 Nov 2018 - Marshall Receives 2018 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award

White paper of 2017 CZ Science Meeting in Arlington, VA

01 Jan 2018 - New Opportunities for Critical Zone Science Following the June 2017 Arlington Meeting for Critical Zone Science (hosted by CZO), a white booklet...

CZOs at AGU 2017

05 Dec 2017 - Information on CZO award recipients, events, presentations, etc. at the 2017 AGU Fall Meeting.

Water Resources Research Special Collection: Concentration-discharge relations in the critical zone

30 Oct 2017 - Water Resources Research published a new special collection in September 2017 featuring concentration-discharge research from multiple CZOs.

ERCZO research featured in Lawrence Hall of Science video: Studying the Eel River Watershed

25 Jun 2017 - Eel River CZO researchers are featured in a new video at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

More News >


Example Publications

FEATURED

Low Subsurface Water Storage Capacity Relative to Annual Rainfall Decouples Mediterranean Plant Productivity and Water Use From Rainfall Variability. Hahm, W.J., Dralle, D.N., Rempe, D.M., Bryk, A.B., Thompson, S.E., Dawson, T.E., and Dietrich, W.E. (2019): Geophysical Research Letters

FEATURED

Evaluating definitions of salmonid thermal refugia using in situ measurements in the Eel River, Northern California . Greer, G., Carlson, S.M, and Thompson, S.E. (2019): Ecohydrology

FEATURED

Arrested development: Erosional equilibrium in the southern Sierra Nevada, California, maintained by feedbacks between channel incision and hillslope sediment production. Callahan, R.P., Ferrier, K.L., Dixon, J., Dosseto, A., Hahm, W.J., Jessup, B.S., Miller, S.N., Hunsaker, C.T., Johnson, D.W., Sklar, L.S., Riebe, C.S. (2019): GSA Bulletin Cross-CZO

FEATURED

Lithologically Controlled Subsurface Critical Zone Thickness and Water Storage Capacity Determine Regional Plant Community Composition. Hahm, W.J., Rempe, D.M., Dralle, D.N., Dawson, T.E., Lovill, S.M., Bryk, A.B., Bish, D.L., Schieber, J. & Dietrich, W.E. (2019): Water Resources Research 55

FEATURED

Do precipitation extremes drive growth and migration timing of a Pacific salmonid fish in Mediterranean‐climate streams?. Kelson, S.J. & Carlson, S.M. (2019): Ecosphere

FEATURED

Do genomics and sex predict migration in a partially migratory salmonid fish, Oncorhynchus mykiss?. Kelson, S.J., Miller, M.R., Thompson, T.Q., O'Rourke, S.M., & Carlson S.M. (2019): Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

FEATURED

Impacts of microbial assemblage and environmental conditions on the distribution of anatoxin-a producing cyanobacteria within a river network. Bouma-Gregson, K., Olm, M.R., Probst, A.J., Anantharaman, K., Power, M.E., & Banfield, J.F. (2019): The ISME Journal

FEATURED

In-situ nuclear magnetic resonance detection of fracture-held water in variably saturated bedrock. Rempe, D.M., Schmidt, L.M. & Hahm, W.J. (2018): SEG Technical Program Expanded Abstracts 2018

FEATURED

Drainage from the Critical Zone: Lithologic Controls on the Persistence and Spatial Extent of Wetted Channels during the Summer Dry Season. Lovill, S.M., Hahm, W.J. & Dietrich, W.E. (2018): Water Resources Research 54(8)

FEATURED

Mercury sourcing and sequestration in weathering profiles at six Critical Zone Observatories. Richardson, Justin B., Arnulfo A. Aguirre, Heather L. Buss, A. Toby O'Geen, Xin Gu, Daniella M. Rempe, and Daniel deB. Richter (2018): Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 32(10):1542-1555 Cross-CZO National

FEATURED

Quantification of the seasonal hillslope water storage that does not drive streamflow. Dralle, D.N., Hahm, W.J., Rempe, D.M., Karst, N.J., Thompson, S.E., Dietrich, W.E. (2018): Hydrological Processes

FEATURED

Controls on the distribution and resilience of Quercus garryana: ecophysiological evidence of oak's water‐limitation tolerance. Hahm, W.J., Dietrich, W.E., and Dawson, T.E. (2018): Ecosphere 9 (5)

FEATURED

Widespread anatoxin-a detection in benthic cyanobacterial mats throughout a river network. Bouma-Gregson, K., Kudela, R.M., Power, M.E. (2018): PLoS One

FEATURED

Beyond clay: towards an improved set of variables for predicting soil organic matter content. Rasmussen C., Heckman K., Wieder W.R., Keiluweit M., Lawrence C.R., Berhe A.A., Blankinship J.C., Crow S.E., Druhan J.L., Hicks Pries C.E., Marin-Spiotta E., Plante A.F., Schädel C., Schimel J.P., Sierra C.A., Thompson A., Wagai R. (2018): Biogeochemistry 137(3): 297–306 Cross-CZO

FEATURED

Stochastic modeling of interannual variation of hydrologic variables. Dralle, D.N., Karst, N., Muller, M., Vico, G., and Thompson, S.E. (2017): Geophysical Research Letters

FEATURED

Climatic, ecophysiological, and phenological controls on plant ecohydrological strategies in seasonally dry ecosystems. Vico, Giulia Thompson, Sally E. Manzoni, Stefano Molini, Annalisa Albertson, John D. Almeida-Cortez, Jarcilene S. Fay, Philip A. Feng, Xue Guswa, Andrew J. Liu, Hu Wilson, Tiffany G. Porporato, Amilcare (2015): Ecohydrology 8(4): 660-681.

FEATURED

The Thirsty Eel: Summer and Winter Flow Thresholds that Tilt the Eel River of Northwestern California from Salmon-Supporting to Cyanobacterially Degraded States. Power, M.E., Bouma-Gregson, K., Higgins, P. and Carlson, S.M. (2015): Copeia 1:200-211.

FEATURED

High Time for Conservation: Adding the Environment to the Debate on Marijuana Liberalization. Carah, J., Howard, J., Thompson, S.E., Short Gianotti, A.G., Bauer, S., Carlson, S.M., Dralle, D.N., Gabriel, M.W., Hulette, L., Johnson, B., Knight, C., Kupferberg, S., Martin, S., Naylor, R., Power, M.E. (2015): BioScience (Advance Access)

FEATURED

A bottom-up control on fresh-bedrock topography under landscapes. Rempe, D.M., Dietrich, W.D. (2014): Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (18): 6576-6581


Ecological and genomic attributes of novel bacterial taxa that thrive in subsurface soil horizons (Pre-Print). BREWER, T.E., E.L. ARONSON, K. AROGYASWAMY, S.A. BILLINGS, J.K. BOTTHOFF, A.N. CAMPBELL, N.C. DOVE, D. FAIRBANKS, R.E. GALLERY, S.C. HART, J. KAYE, G. KING, G. LOGAN, K.A. LOHSE, M.R. MALTZ, E. MAYORGA, C. O’NEILL, S.M. OWENS, A. PACKMAN, J. PETT-RIDGE, A.F. PLANTE, D.D. RICHTER, W.L. SILVER, W.H. YANG, N. FIERER (2019): bioRxiv Cross-CZO National

Hillslope hydrology in global change research and Earth system modeling. Fan, Y., Clark, M., Lawrence, D. M., Swenson, S., Band, L. E., Brantley, S. L., P. D. Brooks, W. E. Dietrich, A. Flores, G. Grant, J. W. Kirchner, D. S. Mackay, J. J. McDonnell, P. C. D. Milly, P. L. Sullivan, C. Tague, H. Ajami, N. Chaney, A. Hartmann, P. Hazenberg, J. McNamara, J. Pelletier, J. Perket, E. Rouholahnejad‐Freund, T. Wagener, X. Zeng, E. Beighley, J. Buzan, M. Huang, B. Livneh, B. P. Mohanty, B. Nijssen, M. Safeeq, C. Shen, W. van Verseveld, J. Volk, D. Yamazaki (2019): Water Resources Research, vol 55 Cross-CZO

Chemical reactions, porosity, and microfracturing in shale during weathering: the effect of erosion rate . Gu, X., D.M. Rempe, W.E. Dietrich, A.J. West, T.-C. Lin, L. Jin, S.L. Brantley (2019): Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta (submitted) Cross-CZO

Direct observations of rock moisture, a hidden component of the hydrologic cycle. Rempe, D. and Dietrich, W.E. (2018): Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The influence of mixing on stable isotope ratios in porous media: A revised Rayleigh model. Druhan J.L, Maher K. (2017): Water Resources Research, 53, 1101–1124 Cross-CZO National

Growing new generations of critical zone scientists. Wymore, Adam S., Nicole R. West, Kate Maher, Pamela L. Sullivan, Adrian Harpold, Diana Karwan, Jill A. Marshall, Julia Perdrial, Daniella M. Rempe and Lin Ma (2017): Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 42 (14): 2498-2502 Cross-CZO National

Event-scale power law recession analysis: quantifying methodological uncertainty. Dralle, D. N., Karst, N. J., Charalampous, K., Veenstra, A., and Thompson, S. E. (2017): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 21:65-81

More Publications >