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Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory

Moderated group

The Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory is a forested, small, temperate-climate catchment in central Pennsylvania in which the regolith is developing upon homogeneous shale. The purpose of the observatory and associated interdisciplinary research is to quantitatively predict the creation, evolution, and structure of regolith as a function of the geochemical, hydrologic, biologic, and geomorphologic processes operating in a temperate, forested landscape. By creating an interdisciplinary team working collaboratively in one observatory we aim to advance methods for characterizing regolith, to provide a theoretical basis for predicting the distribution and properties of regolith, and to theoretically and experimentally study the impacts of regolith on fluid pathways, flow rates, and residence times. The research site, the focus of National Science Foundation-supported research since the 1970s, has comprehensive datasets on distributed water budgets (1970-75), has served as a model test bed for hydrological response (1998-present), and will be augmented here by new geochemical, geomorphological, ecological, lidar, and soils datasets, all available to the research community. Please visit the website for the latest in News, Events, and Data. Shale Hills represents an opportunity to investigate the rates and mechanisms of saprolite and soil formation on a relatively simple but ubiquitous bedrock lithology that has been documented to be important in determining global fluxes of C, P, and platinum–group elements worldwide. Furthermore, the regolith at Shale Hills has experienced at least two potentially significant perturbations in the geologically recent past: a climatic perturbation from periglacial to modern conditions, and a biologic perturbation from anthropogenic clearing of forests during and repeatedly since colonial occupation. The magnitude of these perturbations and their influence on regolith generation afford an opportunity to assess the time scales of response of soil production to both long-term climate change and human activity. Award Abstract #0725019   Website:

PI: Chris Duffy

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