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What is the Intensively Managed Landscapes CZO?

Justin Richardson in Adventures in the Critical Zone

Apr 02, 2017

An illustrated introduction to the Intensively Managed Landscapes (IML) Critical Zone Observatory!

By Dr. Justin Richardson and Dr. Praveen Kumar

Illustrated by Alana McGillis.

Panel 1. A farm landscape found at the Intensively Managed Landscapes CZO (IML CZO).

Panel 2. Dr. Praveen Kumar stands in a cornfield, waves and says, “Hi, I am Dr. Praveen Kumar and I lead the research conducted at IML CZO.

Panel 3. The IML CZO studies how humans have modified the landscape including the air, water, vegetation, and soil of the CZ to produce food.

Panel 4. A map shows that a large portion of the U.S. is farmland. The food produced here is consumed worldwide. The IML CZO is located across three states in the upper mid-west.

Panel 5. The IML CZO explores how to make agriculture sustainable by studying storage and transport of carbon, sediment, nutrients and water through soil and rivers. Rain falls on farmland.

Panel 6. The glaciated landscape of the Midwestern U.S. has been modified through installation of tile drains, and existing streams were modified to reduce moisture and increase agricultural productivity. As a result, dissolved and particulate material now move faster through the landscape and streams. A tile drain shows a blooming, healthy plant and root system, while an undrained soil shows an unfruitful, withered plant.

Panel 7. Humans are causing upland erosion, sediment and carbon burial in the flood plains and their remobilization. A highly eroded floodplain through a farm shows that the landscape is still evolving under human influence.

Panel 8. The loss of soil structure and soil organic matter have changed the transport of water, solute, carbon, and sediment. Modern farming has increased nutrient and water loss in human-modified soils.

Panel 9. Researchers dig, drill, scoop and fly to understand the CZ at the IML CZO.

Panel 10. Dr. Kumar stands near a lake with other researchers and says, “Our research will help ensure that food production is sustainable and also protect the CZ and water bodies.”


What is the Intensively Managed Landscapes CZO?
(657 KB pdf)
Printable 2-page version of this comic.

Justin B. Richardson

CZO INVESTIGATOR, STAFF. National Office outreach officer, Former CZO Post-Doctoral Fellow. Specialty: Soil biogeochemistry of plant-essential and toxic metals.

CZO Profile | Personal Website

Outreach / Education Research   Soil Science / Pedology   Water Chemistry   EDUCATION/OUTREACH   General Public   K-12 Education  

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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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