The CZOS are working toward a holistic conceptual model of critical zone evolution that couples hydrological, geochemical, geomorphic, and biological processes. Such a model must consider many spatial and temporal scales.
The CZOs are building systems models that quantitatively combine multiple processes, often spanning an entire watershed. These models typically track fluxes and storage of energy, water, carbon, sediments, and/or other materials.
The CZOs are assembling the needed infrastructure for an integrated data/ measurement foundation. This foundation will inform our theoretical framework, constrain our models, and help test hypotheses across CZOs.
Despite the Critical Zone's importance to terrestrial life and many environmental issues, it remains poorly understood. Key questions include:
There are many followup questions as well. For example:
Each Critical Zone Observatory is helping work on these fundamental questions along with numerous others. Some questions are specific to the unique characteristics of their field site and the talents of their collaborative research team. Some examples:
A key advantage of the coordinated system of Critical Zone Observatories is that it can address the biggest questions by leveraging differing environments and histories. More specifically, cross-CZO science can begin to answer questions such as:
An expressed goal of the CZO program is to catalyze transformative Earth surface science in the coming decade by developing cross-site science that helps to establish: 1) a unifying theory of CZ evolution; 2) coupled systems models to explore how CZ services respond to anthropogenic, climatic, and tectonic forcing; and 3) data sets that document differing CZ geologic and climatic settings, inform the theoretical framework, constrain conceptual and coupled systems models, and test model-generated hypotheses.
Answering fundamental questions requires much better knowledge of how physical, chemical, and biological processes in the Critical Zone are coupled and at what spatial and temporal scales. Many of these processes are highly non-linear and can range across vast scales - from atomic to global, and from seconds to eons.
To better understand how the complex processes of the Critical Zone are linked, the U.S. NSF National CZO Program employs a systems approach across a broad array of sciences. This interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach integrates many disciplines, especially in the geological and biological sciences. Examples include hydrology, ecology, biogeochemistry, and geomorphology.
Our systems approach across disciplines is well supported via our infrastructure. Our six observatories span a range of climatic, geologic, and physiographic environments, from California to Puerto Rico. Each CZO is working toward a common set of resources, which will enable comparison of whole-watershed energy and mass balances across a variety of settings.
Within each CZO, scientific collaborations are common, often bringing together researchers from different institutions and crossing disciplinary boundaries. This team-based approach helps foster a strong community, which is further strengthed by graduate student involvement. Similar collaborations occur between investigators and students at different CZOs as well as with members of other US science programs. Moreover, the US CZO program also works with an international network of Critical Zone investigators and research sites.
An immediate challenge is to develop a robust predictive ability for how the structure and function of the Critical Zone evolves, including how it will respond to projected climate and land-use changes. This predictive ability must be founded on:
Over the next decade, the CZO program will produce a fundamental understanding and four-dimensional data sets that will stimulate, inspire, and test the resulting predictive models.
13 Sep 2013 (National, Boulder) - Investigators and staff rush into action to collect samples and observe impacts
01 Dec 2013 (National, Boulder) - Join the BcCZO and more than 22,000 Earth and space scientists, educators, students, and other leaders in San Francisco, California, 9-13 December,...
27 Nov 2013 (Luquillo) - For more information and to register please visit the workshops webpage http://www.gwb.com/Philadelphia2014.php The workshops will be presented by...
25 Nov 2013 (Luquillo) - A FEW years ago, one of my graduate students showed me a Google Earth image that changed my view of the world. On a photo showing all of South...
22 Nov 2013 (Jemez-Catalina) - UA College of Science ‘Superstars of Science’ series features Dr. Peter Troch, CZO Co-PI and Science Director at the UA Biosphere 2
16 Nov 2013 (Shale Hills) - Each fall, Techniques in Environmental Geochemistry (GEOSC 413W) students take on a project of their own development to answer an environmental...
Interannual variability of snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains, USA: Examples from two alpine watersheds. Jepsen, S.M., N. P. Molotch, M.W. Williams, K.E. Rittger, J.O. Sickman (2012): Water Resources Research 48 (2) (Boulder, Sierra) Cross-CZO
Non-linear Feedbacks Between Forest Mortality and Climate Change: Implications for Snow Cover, Water Resources, and Ecosystem Recovery in Western North America (Invited). Brooks P.D., Harpold A.A., Biederman J.A., Gochis D.J., Litvak M.E., Ewers B.E., Broxton P.D., Reed D.E. (2013): Abstract C51D-06 presented at 2013 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 9-13 Dec. (Boulder, Jemez-Catalina) Cross-CZO
Chemical constituents in clouds and rainwater in the Puerto Rican rainforest: potential sources and seasonal drivers . Gioda, A.,Mayol-Bracero O.L. , Scatena, F.N., Weathers K.C., Mateus, V.L., McDowell, W.H. (2013): Atmospheric Environment (Luquillo)
Plant and nutrient controls on microbial functional characteristics in a tropical Oxisol. Stone M.M., Plante A.F., Casper, B.B. (2013): Plant and Soil (Luquillo)
Changes in microbial dynamics during long-term decomposition in tropical forests. DeAngelisa, K.M., Chivian, J.L,, Fortneye, J.L., Arkin, A.P, Simmons, B., Hazen, T.C., Silver, W.L. (2013): Soil Biology and Biochemistry (Luquillo)
Linking geomorphology, weathering and cation availability in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. Porder, S., Johnson, A., Xing Hao, Brocard, G., Goldsmith, S. (2013): Ecosystems (Luquillo)
Interactions between lithology and biology drive the long-term response of stream chemistry to major hurricanes in a tropical landscape. McDowell, W.H., Brereton R.L., Scatena F.N. Shanley J.B., Brokaw N.V., Lugo A.E. (2013): Biogeochemistry (Luquillo)
Porosity and surface area evolution during weathering of igneous rocks. Navarre-Sitchler A., Cole D., Rother G., Jin L., Buss H.L., and Brantley S. (2013): Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta (Luquillo)