Publication Type: Journal Article
Source: AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts, p.H4+ (2005)
At Earth's surface, a complex suite of chemical, biological, and physical processes combines to produce soil from bedrock within the zone that extends from the outer limits of vegetation to the lower limits of groundwater (the Critical Zone). This weathering engine transforms primary minerals, provides nutrients to nourish ecosystems and human society, mediates the transport of toxic components within the biosphere, creates water flow paths that shape and weaken bedrock, and contributes to the evolution of landscapes at all temporal and spatial scales. At the longest time scales, the weathering engine sequesters carbon, thereby influencing the global carbon cycle and long-term climate change. No initiative has promoted a systems approach to investigate how Earth's weathering engine disaggregates and solubilizes rock to nourish ecosystems, sculpt terrestrial landscapes, and influence global atmospheric processes. Only with such an effort will it be possible to predict long-term sustainability of the Critical Zone. We have proposed the construction of a network of sites called the Critical Zone Exploration Network (CZEN), where each state factor can be well defined to dominate a specific point in a multi-dimensional matrix of driving factors (climate, time, biota, topography, lithology, disturbance). However, CZEN must be more than a set of sites along parameter gradients: the network must be defined by partnerships across disciplines. We seek to investigate this essential coupling through integration of new tools in the physical, chemical, and biological sciences. The CZEN will be a network of sites, people, ideas, and tools to promote Critical Zone Science.