Cross-CZO Studies

The CZO program began in 2007 with 3 CZOs, with the number increased to 6 CZOs in 2008. At that time efforts transformed a program of independent CZO sites into a broader community research network, and the network expanded to 10 CZOs in 2013. Initial efforts focused on: i) developing common measurements and data to facilitate cross-CZO research, ii) forming cross-CZO working groups around various issues, iii) articulating shared conceptual models for the critical zone, iv) promoting cross-CZO dialog and research activities, v) establishing a common data portal for the 10 CZOs, and vi) sharing of ideas and resources to create additional opportunities for community research on the critical zone.

© Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory

The Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory is one of ten Critical Zone Observatories in the United States and part of a growing international network.

Cross-CZO Network Activities and Purpose

Researchers investigating critical zone properties and processes at the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory conduct cross-CZO research at other critical zone observatories across the U.S. and a growing number of international Critical Zone Observatories. By relaying data and research findings within the network of CZOs and throughout the critical zone research community, we are catalyzing rapid development and refinement of earth systems models.

A key goal of research at our Observatory is to construct whole-watershed energy, water, carbon and other mass balances for a variety of environmental settings. Having these data and models available allows critical zone researchers to create and use a uniform research platform.

Cross-CZO research efforts include studies of organic matter quantity and quality within observatories, hydrologic processes within ecosystems, ecological changes in environments due to climate changes, and others.

CZO Network Measurements

The National Science Foundation’s U.S. Critical Zone Observatory Network was designed to create common research methods, allowing multiple observatories to conduct a set of comparable data across CZOs, as well as within other local, regional, and other global monitoring efforts. While each CZO is answering their own questions, the goal of creating a cross-CZO network is to produce data and measurement methods that correlate to each other, allowing researchers to collaborate data and findings. Cross-CZO measurements focus on the analysis and characterization of bedrock, soil, water, vegetation, atmosphere, and topography. 

All CZOs seek to develop a common set of measurements to quantify:

1. CZ structure and evolution; including 3D spatial distribution and characterization of bedrock, soil, water, vegetation, and topography; regolith and drainage valley evolution; rates of soil production, differentiation, erosion, and deposition.

2. Event-based and continuous fluxes across CZ interfaces; including bedrock-soil; soil-atmosphere; soil- vegetation; vegetation-atmosphere; landscape surface-soil-water.

  • Energy: Measurements of incoming and outgoing visible and infrared radiation, plus latent and sensible heat exchange.
  • Water: Measurements of catchment-scale hydrologic cycle components and pathways, including precipitation (amount and type), evapotranspiration (ET) and its components, subsurface flows, and stream discharge.
  • Solutes and Sediment: Measurements of gaseous, aqueous and solid constituent (e.g., carbon, metal(loid)s, nutrients) transport.

3. Changes in storage (i.e., budgets) of major CZ reservoirs at the catchment scale;

  • Energy: Changes in the thermal state of the near-surface realm.
  • Water: Changes in snowpack, soil water, surface- and ground-water storage.
  • Solutes and Sediment: Changes in stocks of measured solute, sediment, and attached constituent concentrations of the major reservoirs in the CZ. Measurements are of sufficient detail that they can describe changes as a function of depth and watershed location.

Read more about the CZO Network's Common Approach -->

Funding Opporutnity for Science Across Virtual Institutes

Science Across Virtual Institutes (SAVI) is a National Science Foundation program with funding opportunities that can be used for national and global cross-CZO research.

SAVI serves as a catalyst to foster many activities efficiently and economically, and seeks to:

  • Create a uniform platform for broad sets of international collaborations;
  • Bring leading researchers from various countries together, both virtually and physically to coordinate their work on problems or issues of common interest;
  • Create research partnerships among NSF-funded U.S. institutions and other institutions around the world to address global scientific challenges at the frontier;
  • Strategically leverage NSF funding with new funding opportunities from around the globe;
  • Leverage complementary intellectual strengths and share unique research facilities;
  • Mentor and train junior researchers by providing them with opportunities to network with research leaders within the U.S. and abroad; and
  • Create opportunities for scientific collaborations within the U.S. and across the globe to work across disciplinary, institutional, geographic, linguistic and cultural barriers.

Learn more about NSF's SAVI program -->