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Award Abstract #1331940

The Eel River Critical Zone Observatory: exploring how the critical zone will mediate watershed currencies and ecosystem response in a changing environment

NSF Org: EAR
Division Of Earth Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: September 26, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: July 10, 2015
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Award Number: 1331940
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Award Instrument: Cooperative Agreement
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Program Manager: Richard Yuretich
EAR Division Of Earth Sciences
GEO Directorate For Geosciences
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Start Date: October 1, 2013
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End Date: September 30, 2018 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $2,994,044.00
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Investigator(s): William Dietrich bill@eps.berkeley.edu (Principal Investigator)
Stephanie Carlson (Co-Principal Investigator)
Mary Power (Co-Principal Investigator)
James Bishop (Co-Principal Investigator)
Sally Thompson (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: University of California-Berkeley
Sponsored Projects Office
BERKELEY, CA 94704-5940 (510)642-8109
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NSF Program(s): INSTRUMENTATION & FACILITIES,
GEOBIOLOGY & LOW TEMP GEOCHEM,
CZO: CRITICAL ZONE OBSER SOLIC,
ICER
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Program Reference Code(s): 1733, 7693, 9251
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Program Element Code(s): 1580, 7295, 7693, 7699

ABSTRACT

The Eel River Critical Zone Observatory: exploring how the critical zone will mediate watershed currencies and ecosystem response in a changing environment

Surprisingly, we need to look inside hillslopes to understand variations in atmospheric moisture, the magnitude and chemistry of river flows, the dynamics of ecosystems, and, even coastal ocean productivity. These connections arise in a deep, unexplored landscape of weathered bedrock, populated by microbes, that lies beneath the hillslope surface and below the soil mantle and above a fresh bedrock boundary. Rain and snow melt can penetrate this weathered bedrock, be held as rock moisture and be exploited by trees, which return this moisture to the atmosphere through release (transpiration) from leaves. Bedrock properties influence how much moisture is available to plants, so in turn may determine which species can persist, especially in seasonally dry environments. The water released by trees influences air humidity and temperature, and the tree type affects how much solar energy is reflected or absorbed. Collectively these feedbacks influence atmospheric energy and circulation (and momentum). Rain and snow melt also penetrate to the underlying fresh bedrock boundary where water perches and flows as groundwater to streams through the weathered bedrock. This can control the timing, magnitude, and chemistry of runoff to rivers, especially during summer low flow periods. Hence, river ecosystems and the coastal oceans (where rivers discharge) are recipients of water and nutrients derived from deep inside hillslopes. The entire zone from vegetation canopy down through the soil and weathered bedrock to the start of fresh bedrock is referred to as the ?critical zone.? This zone mediates these ?watershed currencies?-- water, sediment, solutes (dissolved elements in water), gases, organisms, energy and momentum?that are exchanged and transformed in the course of biological and physical interactions across landscapes. PIs propose to establish the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory in Northern California for intensive field investigations of key mechanisms controlling these currencies and their consequences for water resources and ecosystem sustainability. Eel River CZO scientists will build models to explore how these currencies are exchanged among atmosphere, hillslopes, rivers and coastal oceans to investigate fundamental questions and to provide guidance for management issues.

PIs identify four key frontier questions: 1) Do plants in seasonally dry environments rely on moisture from the weathered bedrock beneath the soil and if so how might bedrock properties then affect this availability and thus the resilience of vegetation to climate change? 2) As moisture conditions change, how do microbes in the critical zone influence the water chemistry and gasses discharged from hillslopes? 3) What controls the spatial extent of channels that remain wet (standing or flowing water) in the network of channels draining seasonally dry environments? and 4) Will changes in critical zone currencies, induced by climate or land use change, lead to sudden shifts in river and coastal ecosystems? Motivated by anticipated increase in climate extremes (especially extended drought) and accelerating societal demand for water, PIs focus on filling knowledge gaps that not only inhibit our ability to forecast the magnitude of future change of systems, but even the sign of that change. The Eel River CZO will be locally rooted in the Angelo Coast Range Reserve (in Northern California), but will extend to watershed and regional scales. It will be dedicated to detecting, explaining, and predicting driving mechanisms that connect watershed currencies to processes that operate in the critical zone. We will also develop a model which will provide local predictions over a regional scale that can be used to ask "what if" questions about possible future climate and landuse scenarios, and the consequences for runoff and ecosystem conditions.

The Eel River CZO will produce a generation of students and postdocs who have worked together across the disciplines of climate science, hydrology, ecology, geobiology, geochemistry and geomorphology and who have made discoveries at the interface of these fields. There will be strong interactions with other CZOs. PIs will actively work with resource managers and watershed residents to share and generate knowledge and collaborate to build resource and ecosystem resilience, specifically in the Eel and Russian River coastal watersheds. They will focus on these watersheds, but anticipate our findings and modeling will then be expanded to a much broader region. Environmental change will come: the need for well-informed guidance and tools will accelerate. It is only through coupling mechanistic field studies and integrated modeling as proposed here that we can forecast and offer tools for decision makers to guide the future state of landscapes and their ecosystem functions and services


PUBLICATIONS PRODUCED AS A RESULT OF THIS RESEARCH

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Rempe, D.M., & W.E. Dietrich. "A bottom-up control on fresh-bedrock topography under landscapes," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v.111, 2014, p. 6576.

Bode, C. A. and Limm, M. P. and Power, M. E. and Finlay, J. C.. "{Subcanopy solar radiation model: predicting solar radiation across a heavily vegetated landscape using LiDAR and GIS solar radiation models}," Remote Sensing of Environment, v.154, 2014, p. 387--397.

Dralle, David N. and Boisram\'{e}, Gabrielle and Thompson, Sally E.. "{Spatially variable water table recharge and the hillslope hydrologic response: Analytical solutions to the linearized hillslope Boussinesq equation}," Water Resources Research, v.50, 2014, p. 8515--853.

Power, Mary E. and Bouma-Gregson, Keith and Higgins, Patrick and Carlson, Stephanie M.. "{The Thirsty Eel: Summer and Winter Flow Thresholds that Tilt the Eel River of Northwestern California from Salmon-Supporting to Cyanobacterially Degraded States}," Copeia, v.2015, 2015, p. 200--211.

Kim, H., J.K.B. Bishop, W.E. Dietrich, & I. Y. Fung. "Process dominance shift in solute chemistry as revealed by long-term high-frequency water chemistry observations of groundwater flowing through weathered argillite underlying a steep forested hillslope," Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v.140, 2014, p. 1.

Vico, G., Thompson, S.E., Manzoni S., Molini, A., Albertson,m J.D., Almeida-Cortez, J.S., Fay, P.A., Feng, X., Guswa, A.J., Liu, H., Wilson, T.G. & Porporato, A.. "On the interplay among climate, ecophysiological traits and leaf phenology inshaping plant ecohydrological strategies in seasonally dry ecosystems.," Ecohydrology., 2014.

Schubel, J. R.,
Conrad, C. C.,
Debinski, D.,
Kareiva, P. M.,
Matsumoto, G. I.,
McKnight, D. M.,
Parmesan, C.,
Plowes, R.,
Power, A.G.,
Power, M.E.,
Stromberg. M.R. "Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Laboratories in the 21st Century," National Research Council of the National Academies of Science, 2014.

M\"{u}ller, Marc F. and Dralle, David N. and Thompson, Sally E.. "{Analytical model for flow duration curves in seasonally dry climates}," Water Resources Research, v.50, 2014, p. 5510--553. 

Poinar, G. and Walder, L. and Uno, H.. "{Anomalomermis ephemerophagis n. g., n. sp. (Nematoda: Mermithidae) parasitic in the mayfly Ephemerella maculata Traver (Ephermeroptera: Ephermerellidae) in California, USA}," Systematic Parasitology, v.90, 2015, p. 231--236. 

Kim, Hyojin and Bishop, James K B and Dietrich, William E. and Fung, Inez Y.. "{Process dominance shift in solute chemistry as revealed by long-term high-frequency water chemistry observations of groundwater flowing through weathered argillite underlying a steep forested hillslope}," Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v.140, 2014, p. 1--19. 


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