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The Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory (RC CZO) is addressing the grand challenge of improving prediction of soil carbon storage and flux from the pedon to the landscape scale.

Most of the world’s terrestrial carbon is found in the critical zone, where it is predominantly stored as soil carbon. This important carbon reservoir is sensitive to climatic and land use change and may act as a source or sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Despite its importance, soil carbon remains a critical source of uncertainty in both carbon cycling and global climate models. That uncertainty arises due to both an incomplete understanding of the processes dictating soil carbon fate and the challenge of up-scaling often highly spatially and temporally heterogeneous soil processes to the landscape or global level. 

Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in Owyhee County, Idaho is particularly well suited for this effort because it extends over strong gradients in climate and vegetation with associated dramatic differences in both soil organic and inorganic carbon. These gradients facilitate both observation-based science and experimental investigations in which the gradients act as primary variables. This new CZO is also be supported by unique long-term, spatially- extensive, meteorological, soil monitoring, and atmospheric datasets developed and maintained by our main partner, the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), that will both inform and constrain conceptual and numerical models of soil carbon behavior.


Objectives of the the RC CZO are the following:

1) Determine the relationship between measured soil carbon storage and the soil environment at high spatial resolution across a broad, regionally significant environmental gradient.
2) Measure net carbon flux in conjunction with components of the soil carbon cycle at the pedon to landscape scale.
3) Evaluate soil carbon model performance in terms of a) soil carbon distribution across the landscape and b) representation of critical carbon fluxes at the pedon to landscape scale.
4) Be a community resource and magnet for global climate modeling and carbon cycle research.


Reynold Creek CZO





Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) with existing USDA ARS instrumentation and proposed CORE sites

Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) with existing USDA ARS 

Reynold Creek CZO

Research News


Discussion paper open till April 5th in Biogeosciences

06 Mar 2018 - A discussion is open for the manuscript, "Elevating the biogeosciences within environmental research networks".


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.


The frontier beneath our feet — an AGU commentary on the critical zone

21 Apr 2017 - AGU has published a collection of commentaries highlighting the important role Earth and space science research plays in society.


2017 CZO Webinar Series: Critical Zone and Society

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


Reynolds Creek CZO PI Meeting AGENDA

14 Sep 2016 - Reynolds Creek CZO is hosting a PI meeting September 18th to the 21st is Boise, Idaho. ...


Harmandeep Sharma recieved the 2016 New Phytologist Poster Award from ESA

22 Aug 2016 - The Physiological Ecology Section is pleased to announce the 2016 merit award winners for their presentations at the ESA meeting in Ft. Lauderdale.


Digging Soil Pits at Reynolds Creek

09 Feb 2016 - Students dig a soil pit in Johnston Draw, Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed. They made a time-lapse video during the early part of their work.


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.

CZOs at AGU 2016

22 Nov 2016 - CZOs at AGU 2016: Agenda and award recipients

Critical Zone Q&A with researcher Adrian Harpold

19 Oct 2016 - University of Nevada Reno's Adrian Harpold reflects on his past and present time researching at Critical Zone Observatories.

EOS: Taking the Pulse of the Earth’s Surface Systems

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...

Joint AGU-ESA Event Brings Together Collaborative Networks

17 Aug 2015 - Members of AGU and the Ecological Society of America came together in their first joint event to discuss opportunities for research collaboration.

CZO Ecology Session at ESA 2015 Meeting

16 Jul 2015 - A session entitled 'Ecology in the Critical Zone" will take place at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) 2015 Meeting held  from August...

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Example Publications


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


Regional sensitivities of seasonal snowpack to elevation, aspect, and vegetation cover in western North America. Christopher J. Tennant, Adrian A. Harpold, Kathleen Ann Lohse, Sarah E. Godsey, Benjamin T. Crosby, Laurel G. Larsen, Paul D. Brooks, Robert W. Van Kirk, Nancy F. Glenn (2017): Water Resources Research 53 Cross-CZO National


Geochemical evolution of the Critical Zone across variable time scales informs concentration-discharge relationships: Jemez River Basin Critical Zone Observatory. McIntosh J.C., Schaumberg C., Perdrial J., Harpold A., Vázquez-Ortega A., Rasmussen C., Vinson D., Zapata-Rios X., Brooks P.D., Meixner T., Pelletier J., Derry L., Chorover J. (2017): Water Resources Research 53(5): 4169–4196 Cross-CZO National


Designing a network of critical zone observatories to explore the living skin of the terrestrial Earth. Brantley, S.L., McDowell, W.H., Dietrich, W.E., White, T.S., Kumar, P., Anderson, S., Chorover, J., Lohse, K.A., Bales, R.C., Richter, D., Grant, G., and Gaillardet, J. (2017): Earth Surface Dynamics, 5, 841–860 Cross-CZO National


Reviews and syntheses: on the roles trees play in building and plumbing the critical zone. Brantley, Susan L., David M. Eissenstat, Jill A. Marshall, Sarah E. Godsey, Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, Diana L. Karwan, Shirley A. Papuga, Joshua Roering, Todd E. Dawson, Jaivime Evaristo, Oliver Chadwick, Jeffrey J. McDonnell, Kathleen C. Weathers (2017): Biogeosciences, 14, 5115-5142 Cross-CZO National


A field comparison of multiple techniques to quantify groundwater–surface-water interactions. González-Pinzón, R., Ward, A., Hatch, C., Wlostowski, A., Singha, K., Gooseff, M., Haggerty, R., Harvey, J., Cirpka, O., and Brock, J. (2015): Freshwater Science, 34(1) Cross-CZO


Analytical model for flow duration curves in seasonally dry climates. Müller, M.F., Dralle, D.N., and Thompson, S.E. (2014): Water Resources Research 50(7): 5510-5531. Cross-CZO

Technical report: the design and evaluation of a basin-scale wireless sensor network for mountain hydrology. Zhang, Z., Glaser, S., Bales, R., Conklin, M., Rice, R., and D. Marks (2017): Water Resources Research, 53. 4487–4498.

Water and Carbon Fluxes along a Climate Gradient in Sagebrush Ecosystems. Flerchinger, G.N., Fellows, A.W., Seyfried, M.S., Clark, P.E., Lohse, K.A. (2017): Agricultural and Forest Meteorology

Variation in carbon and water fluxes in sagebrush steppe communities along an elevation gradient spanning rain- to snow- dominated precipitation regimes . Sharma, H., K. Reinhardt, K. A. Lohse, K. Aho (2017): Agriculture and Forest Meteorology

Nitrogenase Activity by Biological Soil Crusts in Cold Sagebrush Steppe Ecosystems. Schwabedissen, S.G., Lohse, K.A., Reed, S.C., Aho, K.A., T.S. Magnuson (2017): Biogeochemistry 134 (1–2): 57–76

On the rocks: quantifying storage of inorganic soil carbon on gravels and determining pedon-scale variability. Stanbery, C.J., Pierce, J.L., Benner, S.G., and K. Lohse (2017): Catena 157: 436-442

Variation in Biological Soil Crust Bacterial Abundance and Diversity as a Function of Climate in Cold Steppe Ecosystems in the Intermountain West, USA. Blay, E.S., Schwabedissen, S.G., Magnuson, T.S., Aho, K., Sheridan, P.P., and K.A. Lohse (2017): Microbial Ecology 74 (3): 691–700

Regional sensitivities of seasonal snowpack to elevation, aspect, and vegetation cover in western North America. Tennant, C.J., Harpold, A.A., Lohse, K.A., Godsey, S.E., Crosby, B.T., Larsen, L.G., Brooks, P.D., R.W. Van Kirk, N. Glenn (2017): Water Resources Research 53: doi:10.1002/2016WR019374 Cross-CZO National

More Publications >