ARCHIVED CONTENT: In December 2020, the CZO program was succeeded by the Critical Zone Collaborative Network (CZ Net) ×

Introducing Eel River CZO

03 Mar 2014
News Source: Berkeley News Center (By Robert Sanders)

UC Berkeley scientists will receive $4,900,000 over the next five years to study the Eel River watershed in Northern California...

What the researchers uncover will help improve global climate models and modeling tools that can be used by state or regional decision makers to guide planning. Their discoveries may eventually allow scientists to predict the impact of changing climate and land use on future droughts, floods and supplies of water for drinking and agriculture.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Eel River Observatory is one of four new Critical Zone Observatories that received grants late last year, bringing the total number of such observatories to 10. All focus on the so-called “critical zone”: the thin veneer of Earth, from the bottom of the groundwater to the tree tops, that is critical to aquatic and terrestrial life as the source of fresh water and site of soil formation from rock.

The Eel River is increasingly under pressure because of illegal marijuana cultivation, wine grape growing and other uses that extract water from the river and threaten one of the state’s largest Coho salmon runs. In addition, warming waters in recent years have led to outbreaks of blue-green algae that produce enough toxins to kill dogs that drink the water. The river is currently stressed by the driest winter in decades.

“Whatever the agricultural use in the future, we will see increasing demands on a decreasing water resource,” said observatory director William Dietrich, UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science and an expert on the processes that shape landscapes.

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By Robert Sanders

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