Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
Research article
 | Highlight paper
18 Dec 2017
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 18 Dec 2017

Designing a network of critical zone observatories to explore the living skin of the terrestrial Earth

Susan L. Brantley, William H. McDowell, William E. Dietrich, Timothy S. White, Praveen Kumar, Suzanne P. Anderson, Jon Chorover, Kathleen Ann Lohse, Roger C. Bales, Daniel D. Richter, Gordon Grant, and Jérôme Gaillardet


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Short summary
The layer known as the critical zone extends from the tree tops to the groundwater. This zone varies globally as a function of land use, climate, and geology. Energy and materials input from the land surface downward impact the subsurface landscape of water, gas, weathered material, and biota – at the same time that differences at depth also impact the superficial landscape. Scientists are designing observatories to understand the critical zone and how it will evolve in the future.