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Critical Zone Observatories quantifying the chain of impact between geosphere and biosphere Steve Banwart, U. Sheffield, UK SoilTrEC: Soil Transformations in European Catchments FP7 Large Integrating Project. Summary of the Talk. Overview of Critical Zone Science

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Critical Zone Observatories quantifying the chain of impact between geosphere and biosphereSteve Banwart, U. Sheffield, UKSoilTrEC: Soil Transformations in European CatchmentsFP7 Large Integrating Project

summary of the talk
Summary of the Talk
  • Overview ofCritical Zone Science
  • The soils research exemplar: SoilTrEC project
  • International developments in Critical Zone science

Critical Zone Observatory Program

  • “Real progress will required problem focused, multidisciplinary field work in natural observatories where detailed, long-term observations can be made using a variety of disciplinary tools.” (US National Academy of Science Report, BROES, 2001)
  • The approach to observation is motivated by:
  • hypothesis testing,
  • process understanding across temporal and spatial scales
  • mathematical model development,
  • Utilising multiple sensor and sampling methods,
  • Often high-density instrument arrays,
  • Time series/real time measurements of coupled process dynamics,
  • Combining large data sets with numerical simulation
coupled process dynamics across spatial and temporal scales
Coupled Process Dynamics Across Spatial and Temporal Scales



Soil profile



czos are magnets for multidisciplinary research
CZOs are magnets for multidisciplinary research
  • Soil Science
  • Physical Geography
  • Hydrology
  • Molecular Ecology
  • Microbiology
  • Geochemistry
  • Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Management Science
  • Sociological Sciences
  • … and many others
the perfect storm
The Perfect Storm

In March 2010, the UK Chief Scientist stated that humanity faced a perfect storm of converging challenges within the next 40 years.

  • Increase in population to over 9.3 billion by 2050.
  • Doubling in demand for food
  • Doubling in demand for fuel
  • More than 50% increase in demand for clean water
  • … all while mitigating and adapting to the impacts of global climate change.

During recent weeks several of these projections have been updated.

  • Human population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050
  • Greenhouse gas levels for N2O and CH4 have just exceeded previous records
  • CO2 levels are increasing faster at the moment than in previous years
  • Agricultural yields are projected to decrease overall due to insufficient water

The Storm is growing in intensity

Critical Zone Observatories are international focal points for basic science, testbeds for interdisciplinary solutions, and incubators for commercial innovation.

Research challenges:

  • Hindcasting to understand change
  • Forecasting to find solutions
  • International integration to match the urgency
earth s critical zone the architecture treetop to bedrock
Earth’s Critical Zone: the architecture Treetop to Bedrock

Food and fibre production

Filtering water

Transforming nutrients

Carbon storage

Biological habitat

Gene pool

Soil Ecosystem Services - the heart of Earth’s Critical Zone

EU Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection, EC (2006) outlines policy to address threats to soil services.


Critical Zone ServicesThe Chain of Impact

GHGs and Climate Regulation

Food and fibre production

Carbon Storage

Nutrient Transformation

Biological Habitat

Gene Pool

Filtering Water

Parent Material – forming soil

Baseflow to rivers

Storing and transmitting heat

Repository for hazardous wastes

Physical scaffold for landscapes

Attenuating contaminants

Storing and transmitting water

critical zone observatories
Critical Zone Observatories

Banwart et al. (2011). Vadose Zone Journal, CZO special issue, 10, 974–987.

damma glacier czo switzerland
Damma Glacier CZOSwitzerland

PI: S.M Bernasconi, ETH and

the BigLink Project Team

lysina czo czech republic
Lysina CZO, Czech Republic

Even-Aged Norway Spruce

Plantation at Lysina

PIs: Martin Novak, PavelKram

Czech Geological Survey

earth s critical zone the services
Earth’s Critical Zone: the services
  • Mass and energy flows deliver goods and services:
  • filtration of water
  • new soil
  • food, fuel, fibre
  • transformation of nutrients and pollutants
  • thermal energy
  • carbon storage
  • waste isolation
  • scaffold for landscapes

Modelling Structure in SoilTrEC

Data collection and analysis of CZO soils

Small Plot Experiments

Laboratory experiments



Nutrient dynamics,

Reactive transport



Food web dynamics, Life cycle analysis

Plant, Weathering,

Aggregate formation (PROSUM, CAST, ForSAFE)

Spatial Scale

1D-Integrated Critical Zone (ICZ) Model

Watershed Hydrology and transport (SWAT-ICZ)

Upscaling with GIS (GEOSTATISTICS)

Evaluation of soil ecosystem services, life cycle and

monitory value

carbon amendments soil fertility and structure

Carbon Amendments – Soil Fertility and Structure

Slide courtesy of Nikolaos Nikolaidis, Technical U. Crete


1D-ICZ Model – C/N/P and Soil Structure Module

Simulation of 2 year of Compost Addition

Carbon sequestration Water Stable Aggregates – soil fertility

Porosity & Bulk Density

– soil structure

Slide courtesy of Nikolaos Nikolaidis, Technical U. Crete


1D-ICZ Model – Plant Module Results



Slide courtesy of Nikolaos Nikolaidis, Technical U. Crete


Soil Function Status of Koiliaris CZO

Water Filtration and Transformation

Carbon Sequestration


Soil Function Status of Koiliaris CZO

Biomass Production


soil sustainability by design
Soil Sustainability – by design
  • Design of land use through computational simulation
  • Model of soil processes embedded within Critical Zone process model
  • Parameterisation via web-accessible GIS
  • Scenario analysis for mitigation of/adaptation to environmental change
  • Valuation of full range of critical zone services
international czo networks
International CZO Networks

c$100M in new funding committed for CZO research worldwide since 2008

  • NSF CZO programme
  • EC SoilTrEC project
  • French Network of River Basins
  • German AquaDiva Project
  • German Helmholtz Centres TERENO network of CZOs
  • 2014 workshop in Perth, Australia on CZOs for the Southern Hemisphere
  • Interest from China in a programme of Critical Zone research

International Steering Committee

Steve Banwart, Jerome Gaillardet, Marty Goldhaber, Sue Trumbore, Don Sparks

Project and network collaboration on:

  • Shared sites and data
  • Numerical simulation approaches
  • PhD and post-doc training
czos to focus international science
CZOs to Focus International Science

H1: CZ ecosystem services will be particularly vulnerable to extreme events; droughts, heat waves and floods.

Real-time monitoring of critical zone processeswith forecasting simulations within heavily instrumented CZOs

H2: Climate and land use gradient experiments today can shed light on ecosystem services response to future environmental and social change.

Study CZ ecosystem services on

a climate gradient from equatorial Africato Artic Europe and along

a land use gradient within climate zones.

global experimental design
Global Experimental Design

CZO Networks along gradients of climate

Map from World Climate.


Global Experimental Design

CZO Networks along gradients of land use

Map from: UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands

international czo research agenda
International CZO Research Agenda

Available as download from

ngl food for thought
NGL - Food for Thought
  • AquaDiva CZ biosphere project
    • Linking above- and below- ground biodiversity
    • Prof Kirsten Kuesel, University of Jena
  • “Drill the Ridge” deep CZ exploration
    • October 2013 workshop in Denver, USA
    • Define the lower boundary of CZ
    • Rock mass interaction with water circulation
    • Linking technology development to basic science
    • Prof. Cliff Reibe, U. Wyoming
  • NGL pioneered this science 20 years ago
  • NGL globally leading science strengths in deep CZ exploration
  • NGL technology leaders in deep CZ exploration