The Critical Zone Research Group
The Critical Zone of Earth has been defined by the National Research Council in 2001 as the “heterogeneous, near surface environment in which complex interactions involving rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms regulate the natural habitat and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources”. The Critical Zone is a dynamic system that extends from the top of the canopy to the bottom of groundwater aquifers. This zone includes the land surface, vegetation, the and water bodies where a series of systems and processes interact and is the most heterogeneous portion of Earth. An assortment of physical, chemical, biological and human processes and reactions occur in the Critical Zone over a range of spatial and temporal scales. These processes impact mass and energy exchanges necessary for biomass productivity, chemical recycling, landscape development, water storage, and human occupation. These process also control transport and cycling of contaminants including organics, metals, sediments, and radionuclides. Participation in this research group spans the university’s researchers.