© Margot Wholey December 2015 

The Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory strives to inform ecosystem and resource management decisions for the security and resilience of resources and societies.

Drought, forest mortality, and changing climate have intensifed the need to rapidly and thoroughly understand the critical zone. How will warmer air temperatures impact Sierra snowpack? How much of the water in soil can plants actually use? How do bedrock and soil nutrients influence forest growth? We are answering questions important for the resilience of California - and beyond.

Regional Management Group Participation

Our researchers and staff members actively participate in collaborative resource management groups to communicate findings and address complex issues in water and forest management. Some of these groups include the Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project, Tulare Basin Watershed Connections Workgroup, and Southern Sierra Integrated Regional Water Management Group.

Site Visits for Stakeholders

The Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory has co-hosted tours of our field areas for professionals in forestry, water management, and legislation and policy. Previous field trips have been in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project. These tours and discussions have focused on forest management actions including mechanical thinning and preparation for prescribed burns, along with cutting-edge instrumentation at our sites which has been adopted in other watersheds in California.

Briefings and Presentations

Our researchers send written briefings to elected state and federal officials and meet with local, regional, and federal decision-makers. We share relevant findings to inform the present and future decisions concerning our natural resources and ecosystem services.

On August 24, 2011, Barbara Boxer visited the UC Merced campus and met with students and professors at the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. During her visit, she toured the lab space and learned about research activities at the SSCZO as it relates to California's climate and water resources.

Segment begins at 1:07. Video by UC Merced Office of Communications.  Original video link

A selection of presentations to stakeholders:
  • Water information, water security & climate change in the Sierra Nevada - Covers mountain hydrology, water security, and how to manage mountain water supplies more efficiently and effectively. Talk at UC Sacramento Center, by Roger Bales. May 30, 2013.
  • Water implications of various forest management strategies - How creating new knowledge can help water managers: forest management treatments impact total water supplies. Talk at Carpe Diem West, Sacramento, by Roger Bales. May 16, 2013. 
  • Forests, water & research in the Sierra Nevada - Basic overview of issues in managing the hydrologic cycle in California, including elevational patterns and the potential impact of climate change on snowpack and water delivery. Ultimately addressing the question: How can instrumentation help improve water management in the state? Presentation to ACWA workshop, Sacramento, by Roger Bales. Sept 25, 2012. 
  • Forests and Water in the Sierra Nevada - A regional research network reveals new aspects to consider when managing water delivery from forests in the Sierra Nevada. Presentation by Roger Bales to Mountain Counties Water Resources Association. June 15, 2012. 
  • Effect of forest management on water yields & other ecosystem services in Sierra Nevada forests - Expanding research from the CZO (near Shaver Lake) to points north in the Sierra Nevada. Presentation to Placer County Water Agency by Roger Bales. April 5, 2012. 
  • Forests and Water in the Sierra Nevada, El Dorado county Board of Supervisors, March 20, 2012.
  • California's water cycle: climate, snowpack & forest management - Background on the hydrologic cycle in the Sierra Nevada and in depth coverage of snow pack coverage, as well as instrumentation and ongoing research at multiple sites. California Licensed Foresters Association annual meeting, Roger Bales. Sacramento, March 6, 2009. 


SSCZO - 2011 field trip

This July 2011 outing allowed stakeholders and the public to see the cutting-edge research being conducted at the site. Five congressional staff and 2 state senate staff members attended, along with representatives of several local organizations. 

With SSCZO researchers Roger Bales, Matt Meadows and Carolyn Hunsaker, attendees toured the Providence flux tower, Critical Zone Tree-1, and meadow instrumentation, all located in subcatchment P301



Watch Online: AGU 2017 Nye Lecture by Roger Bales

17 Jan 2018 - Dr. Roger Bales's Nye Lecture, "Making up for lost snow: lessons from a warming Sierra Nevada", is now available to watch online.


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.


2017 CZO Webinar Series: Critical Zone and Society

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

Research Program Updates: January 2018

17 Jan 2018 - Recent activities and findings, funding opportunities, upcoming events, and other updates

Visiting the Water Source: A Tour of the Kings River Headwaters

06 Nov 2017 - By Michelle Gilmore and Leigh Bernacchi   Ever wonder how we know what we know about water? Twenty-five intrepid water and forest managers,...

UCSB graduate team working on collaborative forest restoration strategies in Sierra Nevada

03 Oct 2017 - Five master's students at the UCSB Bren School are incentivizing restoration strategies for private landholders with Sierra RCD.

New SSCZO comic artfully communicates research

19 Jul 2017 - Wonder what soils and sponges have in common? Or why some trees in the Sierra Nevada are dying while others are surviving? Find out in our new comic.

Gobi Desert Dust Helps Sustain California’s Sierra Nevada

28 Mar 2017 - A team of researchers found that dust provides a much greater amount of nutrients to vegetation in the Sierra Nevada than previously thought.

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