The Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (SSCZO) is an Earth-systems research program investigating the living part of Earth where water, soil, rock, air, and biota interact to form ecosystems. Hydrologists, geomorphologists, soil scientists, and ecologists from Univesrity of California campuses, University of Wyoming, and other institutions collaborate to improve our understanding of water and nutrient cycling, weathering processes, and forest function in the Sierra Nevada.
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Interdisciplinary research and ongoing monitoring at our intensively studied sites allows us to research this living layer of Earth at spatial scales from water droplet to watershed, and temporal scales from minutes to millenia. Coordinated, linked activities enable us to explain and predict the properties and processes southern Sierra landscapes and ecosystems, including water cycle responses to drough, fire, tree mortality, changing climate, and other disturbances to the landscape.
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Our Critical Zone Observatory's field areas are located in the headwaters of the Kings River on the western slope of the southern Sierra Nevada, on federal lands including Sierra National Forest, San Joaquin Experimental Range, and Sequioa National Park. Sites span a range of elevation from 400 m to over 2100 m above sea level. As elevation increases, vegetation, temperature, and dominant precipitation phase also change.
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Advancing our knowledge of Sierra Nevada headwaters and forests—California’s largest water tower—is vital to California and beyond. We engage with research communities, stakeholders, and public audiences in order to increase understanding and awareness of critical zone
science, and of the importance of these sensitive mountain regions.
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We and nine other Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) in the U.S. Critical Zone Observatory Network funded by the National Science Foundation, as well as several other international CZOs, strive to rapidly advance Earth-systems knowledge through our open sites, datasets, and other resources for researchers.
Investigators, students, collaborators, and other research site users conduct research on a variety of topics spanning several disciplines, at multiple spatial and temporal scales:
Hundreds of instruments are installed and maintained at SSCZO, many continuously logging measurements through a wireless sensor network:
Data from instruments and other measurements are available for research analysis and modeling. Our data catalog:
SSCZO continues to develop and expand conceptual and numerical models of the critical zone covering:
Periodic updates are sent by email to the SSCZO research team and interested parties. Emails highlight news, publications, opportunities, and events. To receive updates, please email Michelle Gilmore.
Archive: 2014-01-24 || 2014-01-31 || 2014-02-03 || 2014-02-08 || 2014-02-27 || 2014-03-24 || 2014-04-07 || 2014-05-20a || 2014-05-20b || 2014-06-17 || 2014-07-01 || 2014-07-08 || 2014-07-18 || 2014-08-26 || 2014-09-02 || 2014-11-06 || 2014-12-04 || 2015-01-21 || 2015-01-22 || 2015-02-13 || 2015-02-17 || 2015-03-18 || 2015-04-15 ||
The following are links to a local document archive at the Southern Sierra CZO
NEON Domain 17 site is proposed to be co-located with some SSCZO infrastructure. The most recent Plan of Development for NEON D17 is available here.
Hundreds of instruments and sensors have been deployed in the primary SSCZO research site of the Providence Creek watershed as well as in Wolverton basin. Additional SSCZO flux towers and instruments have also been installed at the San Joaquin Experimental Range, Soaproot Saddle, and Short Hair Creek.
Explore more photos of the intstuments and sensors used by SSCZO.
SSCZO is based in the southwestern Sierra Nevada with sites ranging from oak savannah to subalpine forest, crossing the rain-snow transition zone.
Research at these sites focuses on water, nutrient, and soil fluxes; and landscape and climate changes cross space and time.