Research Themes

Critical Zone

The critical zone is the "Earth's outer skin", where living organisms, air, soil, water, and rock interact and shape the Earth's surface. By working across our disciplines we are looking into the complex interactions and feedbacks among dynamic properties of hydrology, geology, ecology, and soil and atmospheric sciences.

Outside of the glass of Biosphere 2, we collaborate within the context of Critical Zone Observatories, which is a national network of sites funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. In our own wild land backyard, our local Catalina-Jemez CZO studies how variability in climate, lithology and disturbance influence CZ structure and function over long (e.g., landscape evolution) and short (e.g., hydrologic event) time scales?

Inside Biosphere 2, we apply this same interdisciplinary approach to study the interactions between hydrological, geomorphological, and atmospheric processes and their influence on and responses to biogeochemical properties and ecological function. Whether done in the context of a model Rain Forest, an arid Desert Biome, or the highly instruments Landscape Evolution Observatory, an integrated science approach yields the greatest understanding of our Critical Zone.

Model Systems

Publications

2017 (Published)

Riparian vegetation in the alpine connectome: Terrestrial-aquatic and terrestrial-terrestrial interactions . Zaharescu, D. G., Palanca-Soler, A., Hooda, P. S., Tanase, C., Burghelea, C. I., Lester, R. N. (2017): Science of The Total Environment 601-602: 247-259.

2017 (Published)

A multi-species synthesis of physiological mechanisms in drought-induced tree mortality . Adams, H.D., Zeppel, M.J.B., Anderegg, W.R.L., Hartmann, H., Landhausser, S.M., Tissue, D.T., Huxman, T.E., Hudson, P.J., Franz, T.E., Allen, C.D., Anderegg, L.D.L., Barron-Gafford, G.A., Beerling, D.J., Breshears, D.D., Brodribb, T.J., Bugmann, H., Cobb, R.C., Collins, A.D., Dickman, L.T., Duan, H., Ewers, B.E., Galiano, L., Galvez, D.A., Garcia-Forner, N., Gaylord, M.L., Germino, M.J., Gessler, A., Hacke, U.G., Hakamada, R., Hector, A., Jenkins, M.W., Kane, J.M., Kolb, T.E., Law, D.J., Lewis, J.D., Limousin, J-M., Love, D.M., Macalady, A.K., Marti­nez-Vilalta, J., Mencuccini, M., Mitchell, P.J., Muss, J.D., O'Brien, M.J., O'Grady, A.P., Pangle, R.E., Pinkard, E.A., Piper, F.I., Plaut, J.A., Pockman, W.T., Quirk, J., Reinhardt, K., Ripullone, F., Ryan, M.G., Sala, A., Sevanto, S., Sperry, J.S., Vargas, R., Vennetier, M., Way, D.A., Xu, C., Yepez, E.A., and McDowell, N.G. (2017): Nature Ecology & Evolution 1: 1285–1291.

2017 (Published)

Photosynthetic phenological variation may promote coexistence among co-dominant tree species in a Madrean sky island mixed conifer forest . Potts, D.L., Minor, R.L., Braun, Z., Barron-Gafford, G.A. (2017): Tree Physiology 37(9): 1229–1238.

2017 (Published)

CO2 diffusion into pore spaces limits weathering rate of an experimental basalt landscape . van Haren, J., Dontsova, K., Barron-Gafford, G. A., Troch, P. A., Chorover, J., Delong, S. B., Breshears, D. D., Huxman, T. E., Pelletier J. D., Saleska, S. R., Xeng, X., and Ruiz, J. (2017): Geology 45(3): 203-206.

2017 (Published)

Ecosystem Composition Controls the Fate of Rare Earth Elements during Incipient Soil Genesis . Zaharescu, D. G., Burghelea, C. I., Dontsova, K., Presler, J. K., Maier, R. M., Huxman, T., Domanik, K. J., Hunt, E. A., Amistadi, M. K., Gaddis, E. E., Palacios-Menendez, M. A., Vaquera-Ibarra, M. O. and Chorover, J. (2017): Scientific Reports 7: 43208.

2017 (Published)

Improving the accuracy of the gradient method for determining soil carbon dioxide efflux . Sánchez-Cañete, E. P., Scott, R. L., van Haren, J., and Barron-Gafford, G. A. (2017): Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 122(1): 50-64.

2017 (Published)

Study of the Spatiotemporal Characteristics of Meltwater Contribution to the Total Runoff in the Upper Changjiang River Basin . Fang, Y.-H., Zhang, X., Niu, G.-Y., Zeng, W., Zhu, J., Zhang, T. (2017): Water 9(3): 165.

2017 (Published)

Subterranean ventilation of allochthonous CO2 governs net CO2 exchange in a semiarid Mediterranean grassland . López-Ballesteros, A., Serrano-Ortiz, P., Kowalski, A. S., Sánchez-Cañete, E. P., Scott, R. L., Domingo, F. (2017): Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 234: 115-126.

2017 (Published)

Improving the Xin'anjiang hydrological model based on mass–energy balance . Fang, Y.-H., Zhang, X., Corbari, C., Mancini, M., Niu, G.-Y., and Zeng, W. (2017): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 21: 3359-3375.

2017 (Published)

Impacts of hydraulic redistribution on grass–tree competition vs facilitation in a semi-arid savanna . Barron-Gafford, G. A., Sanchez-Cañete, E. P., Minor, R. L., Hendryx, S. M., Lee, E., Sutter, L. F., Tran, N., Parra, E., Colella, T., Murphy, P. C., Hamerlynck, E. P., Kumar, P. and Scott, R. L. (2017): New Phytologist 215(4): 1451–1461.

2016 (Published)

The carbon balance pivot point of southwestern U.S. semiarid ecosystems: Insights from the 21st century drought . Scott, R. L., Biederman, J. A., Hamerlynck, E. P., and Barron-Gafford, G. A. (2016): Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 120(12): 2612–2624.

2016 (Published)

Pore water chemistry reveals gradients in mineral transformation across a model basaltic hillslope . Pohlmann, M., Dontsova, K., Root, R., Ruiz, J., Troch, P., and Chorover, J. (2016): Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 17(6): 2054–2069.

2016 (Published)

The Effects of Rain on Elemental Transport in Soils . Schoenfeld, L.K., Hunt, E.A., Dontsova, K.M. (2016): STAR (STEM Teacher and Researcher) Program Posters.

2016 (Published)

Soil Lysimeter Excavation for Coupled Hydrological, Geochemical, and Microbiological Investigations . Sengupta, A. Wang, Y., Meira-Neto, A.A., Matos, K.A., Dontsova, K., Root, R., Neilson, J.W., Maier, R.M., Chorover, J., and Troch, P.A. (2016): Journal of Visualized Experiments 115: e54536.

2016 (Published)

Multiresponse modeling of variably saturated flow and isotope tracer transport for a hillslope experiment at the Landscape Evolution Observatory . Scudeler, C., Pangle, L., Pasetto, D., Niu, G.-Y., Volkmann, T., Paniconi, C., Putti, M., and Troch, P. (2016): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 20(10): 4061-4078.

2016 (Published)

Transit time distributions and StorAge Selection functions in a sloping soil lysimeter with time-varying flow paths: Direct observation of internal and external transport variability . Kim, M., Pangle, L. A., Cardoso, C., Lora, M., Volkmann, T. H. M., Wang, Y., Harman, C. J., and Troch, P. A. (2016): Water Resources Research 52(9): 7105-7129.

2016 (Published)

Winds induce CO2 exchange with the atmosphere and vadose zone transport in a karstic ecosystem . Sánchez-Cañete, E. P., Oyonarte, C., Serrano-Ortiz, P., Curiel Yuste, J., Pérez-Priego, O., Domingo, F., and Kowalski, A. S. (2016): Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 121(8): 2049–2063.

2016 (Published)

Solid-phase redistribution of rare earth elements in hillslope pedons subjected to different hydrologic fluxes . Vázquez-Ortega, A., Huckle, D., Perdrial, J., Amistadi, M. K., Durcik, M., Rasmussen, C., McIntosh, J., Chorover, J. (2016): Chemical Geology 426: 1-18.

2016 (Published)

Small lakes in big landscape: Multi-scale drivers of littoral ecosystem in alpine lakes . Zaharescu, D. G., Burghelea, C. I., Hooda, P. S., Lester R. N., Palanca-Soler, A. (2016): Science of The Total Environment 551: 496–505.

2016 (Published)

Surface-Parallel Sensor Orientation for Assessing Energy Balance Components on Mountain Slopes . Serrano-Ortiz, P., Sánchez-Cañete, E. P., Olmo, F. J., Metzger, S., Pérez-Priego, O., Carrara, A., Alados-Arboledas, L., Kowalski, A. S. (2016): Boundary-Layer Meteorology 158(3): 489-499.

2016 (Published)

Testing the hybrid-3-D hillslope hydrological model in a controlled environment . Hazenberg, P., Broxton, P., Gochis, D., Niu, G.-Y., Pangle, L. A., Pelletier, J. D., Troch, P. A., and Zeng X. (2016): Water Resources Research 52(2): 1089–1107.

2016 (Published)

Enhancement of the net CO2 release of a semiarid grassland in SE Spain by rain pulses . López-Ballesteros, A., Serrano-Ortiz, P., Sánchez-Cañete, E. P., Oyonarte, C., Kowalski, A. S., Pérez-Priego, Ós., and Domingo F. (2016): Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 121(1): 52-66.

2015 (Published)

Mineral nutrient mobilization by plants from rock: influence of rock type and arbuscular mycorrhiza . Burghelea, C., Zaharescu, D. G., Dontsova, K., Maier, R., Huxman, T., Chorover J. (2015): Biogeochemistry 124(1): 187-203.

2015 (Published)

Seven Anion Comparison for the Center and West Hill Slope Systems in the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) Project . Corrigan, S.C., Hunt, E.A., Dontsova, K.M. (2015): STAR (STEM Teacher and Researcher) Program Posters.

2015 (Published)

Critical zone services: expanding context, constraints, and currency beyond ecosystem services . Field, J. P., Breshears, D.D, Law, D. J., Villegas, J. C., López-Hoffman, L., Brooks, P. D., Chorover, J., Barron-Gafford, G. A., Gallery, R. E., Litvak, M. E., Lybrand, R., McIntosh, J. C., Meixner, T., Niu, G.-Y., Papuga, S. A., Pelletier, J. D., Rasmussen, C. R., and Troch, P.A. (2015): Vadose Zone Journal 14(1).

2015 (Published)

The effect of groundwater interaction in North American regional climate simulations with WRF/Noah-MP . Barlage, M., Tewari, M., Chen, F., Miguez-Macho, G., Yang, Z.-L., Niu, G.-Y. (2015): Climatic Change 129: 485–498.

2015 (Published)

Impact of sensor failure on the observability of flow dynamics at the Biosphere 2 LEO hillslopes . Pasetto, D., Niu, G.-Y., Pangle, L., Paniconi, C., Putti, M., Troch, P. A. (2015): Advances in Water Resources 86: 327-339.

2015 (Published)

A hybrid-3D hillslope hydrological model for use in Earth system models . Hazenberg, P., Fang, Y., Broxton, P., Gochis, D., Niu, G. Y., Pelletier, J. D., Troch, P. A., Zeng, X. (2015): Water Resources Research 51(10): 8218–8239.

2015 (Published)

The Landscape Evolution Observatory: A large-scale controllable infrastructure to study coupled Earth-surface processes . Pangle, L.A., DeLong, S.B., Abramson, N., Adams, J., Barron-Gafford, G.A., Breshears, D.D., Brooks, P.D., Chorover, J., Dietrich, W.E., Dontsova, K., Durcik, M., Espeleta, J., Ferre, T.P.A., Ferriere, R., Henderson, W., Hunt, E.A., Huxman, T.E., Millar, D., Murphy, B., Niu, G-Y., Pavao-Zuckerman, M., Pelletier, J.D., Rasmussen, C., Ruiz, J., Saleska, S., Schaap, M., Sibayan, M., Troch, P.A., Tuller, M., van Haren, J., Zeng, X. (2015): Geomorphology 244: 190-203.

2015 (Published)

Bacterial Community Diversity in Soil Under two Tillage Practices as Determined by Pyrosequencing . Sengupta, A., Dick, W.A. (2015): Microb Ecology 70(3): 853–859.

2014 (Published)

Hydrological evaluation of the Noah-MP land surface model for the Mississippi River Basin . Cai, X., Yang, Z.-L., David, C. H., Niu, G.-Y., Rodell, M. (2014): Journal of Geophysical Research 119(1): 23–38.

2014 (Published)

Incipient subsurface heterogeneity and its effect on overland flow generation – insight from a modeling study of the first experiment at the Biosphere 2 Landscape Evolution Observatory . Niu, G.-Y., Pasetto, D., Scudeler, C., Paniconi, C., Putti, M., Troch, P. A., DeLong, S. B., Dontsova, K., Pangle, L., Breshears, D. D., Chorover, J., Huxman, T. E., Pelletier, J., Saleska, S. R., and Zeng, X. (2014): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 18(5): 1873-1883.

2014

Representing surface and subsurface hydrology at hyperresolution for Earth system models: Development of a hybrid 3-D approach . Hazenberg, P., Broxton, P., Brunke, M., Gochis, D., Lawrence, D., Niu, G.-Y., Pelletier, J., Troch, P., Zeng, X. (2014): Abstract GC33A-0497 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec.

2014 (Published)

Assessing five evolving microbial enzyme models against field measurements from a semiarid savannah – what are the mechanisms of soil respiration pulses? . Zhang, X., Niu, G.-Y., Elshall, A. S., Ye, M., Barron-Gafford, G. A., Pavao-Zuckerman, M. (2014): Geophysical Research Letter 41(18): 6428–6434.

2014

Monitoring and Modeling Water, Energy and Carbon Fluxes at the Hillslope Scale in the Landscape Evolution Observatory . Troch, P., Barron-Gafford, G., Dontsova, K., Fang, Y., Niu, G.-Y., Pangle, L., Tuller, M., Van Haren, J. (2014): Abstract H43L-1128 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec.

2014

Quantification of Model Uncertainty in Modeling Mechanisms of Soil Microbial Respiration Pulses to Simulate Birch Effect . Elshall, A., Ye, M., Niu, G.-Y., Barron-Gafford, G. (2014): Abstract IN43B-3695 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec.

2014

Reactive Transport Modelling of Mineral Evolution in the Biosphere 2 Hillslope Experiment . Wu, R., Niu, G.-Y., Steefel, C., Paniconi, C., Chorover, J., Dontsova, K., Troch, P. (2014): Abstract H53A-0843 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec.

2014

A Terrestrial Integrated Modeling System (TIMS) at a catchment scale – implications for Earth System Modeling . Niu, G.-Y., Fang, Y., Wu, R., Mathias, A., Paniconi, C., Troch, P., Zeng, X., Chorover, J., Monson, R. (2014): Abstract H53J-05 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec.

2014

Flow and transport modeling of a tracer isotope experiment at B2 LEO using integrated and distributed multisensor observation data . Scudeler, C., Pangle, L., Pasetto, D., Niu, G-Y., Paniconi, C., Putti, M., Troch, P. (2014): Abstract H13E-1165 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec.

2014 (Published)

Cracking the Code of Soil Genesis. The Early Role of Rare Earth Elements . Zaharescu, D., Dontsova, K., Burghelea, C., Maier, R., Huxman, T., Chorover, J. (2014): Abstract B32D-03 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec.

2014 (Published)

Impact of organic carbon on weathering and chemical denudation of granular basalt . Dontsova, K., Zaharescu, D., Henderson, W., Verghese, S., Perdrial, N., Hunt, E., Chorover, J. (2014): Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 139: 508–526.

2014

Rapid CO2 consumption during incipient weathering of a granular basaltic hillslope in the Landscape Evolution Observatory, Biosphere 2 . Ruiz, J., Van Haren, J., Dontsova, K., Barron-Gafford, G., Troch, P., Chorover J. (2014): Abstract V23A-4778 presented at 2014 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 15-19 Dec.

2014 (Published)

Hillslope-scale experiment demonstrates the role of convergence during two-step saturation . Gevaert, A.I., Teuling, A.J., Uijlenhoet, R., DeLong, S.B., Huxman, T.E., Pangle, L.A., Breshears, D.D., Chorover, J., Pelletier, J.D., Saleska, S.R, Zeng, X., Troch, P.A. (2014): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 18: 3681-3692.

2014 (Published)

Evaluating the effect of rainfall variability on vegetation establishment in a semidesert grassland . Fehmi, J. S., Niu, G.-Y., Scott, R. L., Mathias, A. (2014): Environ Monit Assess 186(1): 395–406.

2014 (Published)

An integrated modelling framework of catchment‐scale ecohydrological processes: 1.Model description and tests over an energy‐limited watershed . Niu, G.-Y., Paniconi, C., Troch, P. A., Scott, R. L., Durcik, M., Zeng, X., Huxman, T., Goodrich, D. C. (2014): Ecohydrology 7(2): 427–439.

2014 (Published)

An integrated modelling framework of catchment‐scale ecohydrological processes: 2. the role of water subsidy by overland flow on vegetation dynamics in a semi‐arid catchment . Niu, G.-Y., Troch, P. A., Paniconi, C., Scott, R. L., Durcik, M., Zeng, X., Huxman, T., Goodrich, D. C., Pelletier, J. (2014): Ecohydrology 7(2): 815–827.

2013

Modeling the "Birch Effect" Using a Microbial Enzyme Based Soil Organic Carbon Decomposition and Gas Transport Model . Niu, G.-Y., Zhang, X., Barron-Gafford, G., Pavao-Zuckerman, M. (2013): Abstract B33C-0496 presented at 2013 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 9-13 Dec.

2013

Breakthroughs in Lab Experiments . Peter Troch (2013): GIWS Distinguished Lecture Series.

2013

Precipitation pulse dynamics of carbon sequestration and efflux in highly weatherable soils . Barron-Gafford, G., Minor, R., Van Haren, J.L., Dontsova, K., Troch, P.A. (2013): Abstract EP13C-0879 presented at 2013 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 9-13 Dec.

2013 (Published)

Coevolution of nonlinear trends in vegetation, soils, and topography with elevation and slope aspect: A case study in the sky islands of southern Arizona . Pelletier, J. D., Barron-Gafford, G. A., Breshears, D. D., Brooks, P. D., Chorover, J., Durcik, M., Harman, C. J., Huxman, T. E., Lohse, K. A., Lybrand, R., Meixner, T., McIntosh, J. C., Papuga, S. A., Rasmussen, C., Schaap, M., Swetnam, T. L., and Troch, P. A. (2013): Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 118: 741-758.

2013

Hydrologic discovery through controlled experimentation, data analysis, and numerical and analytical modeling at the Landscape Evolution Observatory (Invited) . Troch, P. A., Gevaert, A., Smit, Y., Niu, G.-Y., Nakolan, L., Kyzivat, E. (2013): Abstract H11C-1167 presented at 2013 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 9-13 Dec.

2012 (Published)

Prediction of β-glucosidase and β-glucosaminidase activities, soil organic C, and amino sugar N in a diverse population of soils using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy . Dick, W.A., Thavamani, B., Conley, S., Blaisdell, R., Sengupta, A. (2012): Soil Biology and Biochemistry 56: 99-104.

2011

Jemez-Catalina CZO Data Management System and its Integration . Durcik, M. (2011): CUAHSI Conference on Hydrologic Data and Information Systems, Logan, Utah, June 22-24, 2011.

2011 (Published)

Twelve testable hypotheses on the geobiology of weathering . Brantley, S.L., Megonigal, J.P., Scatena, F.N., Balogh-Brunstad, Z., Barnes, R.T., Bruns, M.A., Van Cappellen, P., Dontsova, K., Hartnett, H.E., Hartshorn, A.S., Heimsath, A., Herndon, E., Jin, L., Keller, C.K., Leake, J.R., McDowell, W.H., Meinzer, F.C., Mozdzer, T.J., Petsch, S., Pett-Ridge, J., Pregitzer, K.S., Raymond, P.A., Riebe, C.S., Shumaker, K., Sutton-Grier, A., Walter, R., Yoo, K. (2011): Geobiology 9(2): 140-65.

2010 (Published)

Hysteresis of soil moisture spatial heterogeneity and the “homogenizing” effect of vegetation . Ivanov, V.Y.,Fatichi, S., Jenerette, G.D., Espeleta, J.F., Troch, P.A., Huxman, T.E. (2010): Water Resources Reasearch 46(9): W09521.

2009 (Published)

The Hills are Alive: Interdisciplinary Earth Science at Biosphere 2 . Huxman, T., Troch, P., Chorover, J., Breshears, D.D., Saleska, S., Pelletier, J., Zeng, X. (2009): EOS 90(14): 120.

2009 (Published)

Solid phase evolution in the Biosphere 2 hillslope experiment as predicted by modeling of hydrologic and geochemical fluxes . Dontsova, K., Steefel, C.I., Desilets, S., Thompson, A., Chorover, J. (2009): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 13: 2273-2286..

2009 (Published)

Hillslope hydrology under glass: Confronting fundamental questions of soil-water-biota co-evolution at Biosphere 2 . Hopp, L., Harman, C., Desilets, S. L.E., Graham, C. B., McDonnell, J. J., Troch, P. A. (2009): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 13: 2105–2118.