The Critical Zone Observatory for Intensively Managed Landscapes (IML-CZO) infrastructure consists of three well-instrumented field sites with excellent resources for carrrying out field research and associated data analysis and modeling. The Midwest, which is largely devoted to intensive row-crop agriculture and growing urban areas, features a type of landscape that has not, until now, been examined within the context of a CZO. In this environment, we have the perfect opportunity to study the ways that intensive agriculture, artificial drainage, wetland loss, and urbanization in Intensively Managed Landscapes (IMLs) of the U.S. Midwest have dramatically altered the Critical Zone.
The IML-CZO's network of three core sites includes the Upper Sangamon River Basin in Illinois, the Clear Creek Watershed in Iowa, and the Minnesota River Basin in Minnesota. These sites represent a range of landscape variations found throughout the glaciated Midwest and provide an opportunity to advance our understanding of the CZO in this important region.
The three field areas that comprise the main infrastructure of the IML-CZO present variations on themes familiar throughout the Midwest: widespread land use change, where annual row crop agriculture now covers a landscape once dominated by prairie and savannah; tile drain installation; substantial fluvial drainage network modification; extensive fertilization; and increased urbanization. These field areas represent a broad range of physiographic variations found throughout the glaciated Midwest and thereby provide an opportunity to advance understanding of the critical zone in this region. By creating this network of comparable sites, the IML-CZO will not only integrate with existing CZO measurement infrastructure, but also develop and test innovative measurement techniques for quantifying CZ processes and the key-state variables identified per theme.
The IML-CZO team makes use of infrastructure that includes a variety of state-of-the-science technology:
Event-based sediment load partitioning into upland (brown) and channel (green) source materials in Clear Creek using radioisotopes. The relative partitioning is seen with the pies, while the dashed lines are the different sediment loads. The black line is discharge (Wilson et al., 2012)
10 Jan 2018 - Like river systems, engineered drainage networks become increasingly fractal as they grow.
30 Oct 2017 - Water Resources Research published a new special collection in September 2017 featuring concentration-discharge research from multiple CZOs.
06 Apr 2017 - 2017 CZO Webinar Series: Critical Zone and Society.
21 Mar 2016 - The short video features the Intensely Managed Landscapes Critical Zone Observatory (IML-CZO) with commentary from IML Co-Director Praveen Kumar.
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...
03 Nov 2014 - The US CZO National Office has organized a webinar on December 8, 2014 at 11AM - 12:30 PM ET.
06 Mar 2014 - Presentations describing the Integrated CZO Data system and how to use it; for interested CZO investigators, students & staff.
03 Mar 2014 - The IML-CZO focuses on intensely managed agricultural and urban landscapes in Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota.
3,690 km2, 180-291 m elevation, 11 °C, 1000 mm/yr
The Sangamon River Basin includes a broad range of variations typical of the glaciated Midwest, which offer an opportunity to better understand the critical zone in this region. The basin is characterized by low-relief landscapes with poorly drained soils. The hydrological and biogeochemical cycles are strongly affected by freeze–thaw cycles and artificial drainage systems. The landscape is covered with patchy, thin loess (<1.5 m). This basin has a poorly integrated, natural drainage network with extensive areas of poorly drained soils. Weathering profiles are relatively thin and usually grade to unweathered fine-grained glacial till within 5 m of the land surface. Soil patterns generally reflect glacial depositional patterns, except where modified by stream processes in valleys.
270 km2, 197-248 m elevation, 9 °C, 889 mm/yr
The Clear Creek, Iowa, watershed covers approximately 270 km2 in East Central Iowa and joins the Iowa River in Coralville, Iowa. Clear Creek is representative of most U.S. Midwestern watersheds with regards to land use (predominantly agricultural), soil type/order (Alfisols and Mollisols), and climate (humid-continental). The combination of extensive agricultural activities, increased urbanization, highly erodible soils, and a humid climate on the steep slopes within the watershed have influenced the erosion processes in the watershed.
44,000 km2, 210-294 m elevation, 5 °C, 747 mm/yr
The Minnesota River flows more than 335 miles from its source near the Minnesota-South Dakota border to its confluence with the Mississippi River at Minneapolis/St. Paul. It winds through diverse landscapes and drains nearly 20 percent of Minnesota (16,770 square miles total, 14,840 in Minnesota). Agriculture, primarily corn and soybean production, accounts for the majority of the basin’s land use. As the river enters the Twin Cities Metropolitan area, the basin is characterized by densely populated urban landscapes. The Minnesota River has been cited as one of the most polluted rivers in the state and the nation. In 2008, it was listed on American Rivers top 10 most endangered rivers in the United States. It is the focus of a major restoration effort by local, state, and federal agencies, as well as citizen and nonprofit groups.