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

Exploring carbon dioxide sources at Eel River CZO

Jennifer Druhan in Adventures in the Critical Zone

May 13, 2019

An illustrated introduction to Dr. Jennifer Druhan's research on how carbon is stored in the Critical Zone.

By Drs. Jennifer Druhan (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Justin Richardson (UMass)

Illustrated by Alana McGillis.

Panel 1. Dr. Jennifer Druhan stands in a northern California forest, waves and says “I am Dr. Jennifer Druhan and I study how carbon stored in the Critical Zone.”

Panel 2. A view of Earth from space is shown. Jennifer is interested in carbon because it enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2) and acts as a greenhouse gas. A greenhouse gas is any of compound that traps heat in the atmosphere, which causes the Earth’s climate to change. Rock in the critical zone can help store carbon dioxide.

Panel 3. Jennifer explains that microbes can eat the carbon stored in soil and respire or breathe out carbon dioxide. Arrows show the cycle of carbon from the atmosphere, through vegetation by photosynthesis, into the soil as organic matter from litter fall, and back into the atmosphere from respiration by microbes.

Panel 4. But Jennifer wondered if and how the roots that live along the bedrock are also releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Does this deep root and rocks interaction breathe out carbon dioxide like soils? Jennifer stands near a drill rig to core the rock.

Panel 5. Carbon dioxide is shown migrating upward through the weathered rock up to the surface of the soil. It was a surprise for Jennifer and her team to find out that a lot of carbon dioxide was being released from the roots living in the weathered rocks than from soil!

Panel 6. Jennifer stands amongst a large team of CZ researchers in the forest. It is a new and exciting idea that carbon from trees was being turned into carbon dioxide so deep in the Critical Zone!

Guest Author

Jennifer Druhan

CZO INVESTIGATOR, COLLABORATOR. . Specialty: Reactive transport, isotope geochemistry

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Justin Richardson and his guests answer questions about the Critical Zone, synthesize CZ research, and meet folks working at the CZ observatories

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General Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in the above blog post are only those of the blog author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. CZO National Program or the National Science Foundation. For official information about NSF, visit

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