The critical zone (CZ), a term coined by the US National Research Council in 2001, encompasses the thin outer veneer of Earth’s surface, extending from the top of the vegetation canopy down to the subsurface depths of fresh groundwater, the zone “where rock meets life.” The CZ involves coupled physical, biological, and chemical processes, and scientific expertise from an array of disciplines is needed to understand the zone and its processes: geology, soil science, biology, ecology, geochemistry, hydrology, geomorphology, atmospheric science, and many more. The complex biogeochemical-physical processes combine in the CZ to transform rock and biomass into soil, the central component of the CZ, which in turn supports much of the terrestrial biosphere, including humanity. The structure and functioning of the CZ have evolved in response to climatic and tectonic perturbations throughout Earth’s history, with the processes driving change more recently accelerated by human activities. CZ science offers enormous potential to integrate basic knowledge of Earth’s surface with sustainable adaptation to ongoing rapid and intensive land use and climate change.
White, T., Sharkey, S. (2016): Critical Zone Oxford Bibliography . Oxford Bibliographies. DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199363445-0055