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

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The Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory (RC CZO) is addressing the grand challenge of improving prediction of soil carbon storage and flux from the pedon to the landscape scale.

Most of the world’s terrestrial carbon is found in the critical zone, where it is predominantly stored as soil carbon. This important carbon reservoir is sensitive to climatic and land use change and may act as a source or sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Despite its importance, soil carbon remains a critical source of uncertainty in both carbon cycling and global climate models. That uncertainty arises due to both an incomplete understanding of the processes dictating soil carbon fate and the challenge of up-scaling often highly spatially and temporally heterogeneous soil processes to the landscape or global level. 

Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in Owyhee County, Idaho is particularly well suited for this effort because it extends over strong gradients in climate and vegetation with associated dramatic differences in both soil organic and inorganic carbon. These gradients facilitate both observation-based science and experimental investigations in which the gradients act as primary variables. This new CZO is also be supported by unique long-term, spatially- extensive, meteorological, soil monitoring, and atmospheric datasets developed and maintained by our main partner, the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), that will both inform and constrain conceptual and numerical models of soil carbon behavior.


Objectives of the the RC CZO are the following:

1) Determine the relationship between measured soil carbon storage and the soil environment at high spatial resolution across a broad, regionally significant environmental gradient.
2) Measure net carbon flux in conjunction with components of the soil carbon cycle at the pedon to landscape scale.
3) Evaluate soil carbon model performance in terms of a) soil carbon distribution across the landscape and b) representation of critical carbon fluxes at the pedon to landscape scale.
4) Be a community resource and magnet for global climate modeling and carbon cycle research.


Reynold Creek CZO





Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) with existing USDA ARS instrumentation and proposed CORE sites

Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (RCEW) with existing USDA ARS 

Reynold Creek CZO

Research News


NSF Blog: No soils, no life

27 Oct 2020 - They’re beneath our feet, but we seldom hear important signals in the soils


2020 CZO Webinar Series on Sustainability

17 Jun 2020 - For an updated listing of these talks, including abstracts, see /national/education-outreach/sustainability-2020/ The U.S....


CZOs at AGU 2019

19 Nov 2019 - A list of CZ-related sessions, abstracts and events at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting.


CZ colleagues: Please contact us about proposals for NSF’s CZ Collaborative Network, due 02 Dec 2019

08 Jul 2019 - CZO will end Nov 2020, succeeded by the “CZ Collaborative Network”. Let’s explore how the CZ community can build upon the CZOs via new NSF proposals.


ISU, USGS dryland soil carbon study at Idaho National Laboratory yields surprising results

28 Apr 2019 - The results of a 20-year “drylands” experiment at the Idaho National Laboratory by Idaho State University researchers and partners has...


CZOs at AGU 2018

19 Nov 2018 - The 2018 AGU Fall Meeting will be held December 10-14 in Washington, D.C.


How thick is the skin of the earth?

26 Aug 2018 - A team of Idaho State University researchers working at the Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory in partnership with the USDA Agricultural...


NSF Discovery articles focus on the CZOs.

10 May 2018 - The Discoveries section of the National Science Foundation's website on Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs).


Reynolds Creek CZO PI Meeting AGENDA

14 Sep 2016 - Reynolds Creek CZO is hosting a PI meeting September 18th to the 21st is Boise, Idaho. ...


Harmandeep Sharma recieved the 2016 New Phytologist Poster Award from ESA

22 Aug 2016 - The Physiological Ecology Section is pleased to announce the 2016 merit award winners for their presentations at the ESA meeting in Ft. Lauderdale.


Digging Soil Pits at Reynolds Creek

09 Feb 2016 - Students dig a soil pit in Johnston Draw, Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed. They made a time-lapse video during the early part of their work.


Ecology From Treetop To Bedrock:  Human Influence In Earth’s Critical Zone

17 Jul 2015 - An Organized Session On Critical Zone Ecology At The 100th Annual Meeting Of The Ecological Society Of America August 9-14, 2015 In Baltimore, Md.

Congratulations Jill Marshall on receiving the 2018 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award

06 Nov 2018 - Marshall Receives 2018 Luna B. Leopold Young Scientist Award

Discussion paper open till April 5th in Biogeosciences

06 Mar 2018 - A discussion is open for the manuscript, "Elevating the biogeosciences within environmental research networks".

White paper of 2017 CZ Science Meeting in Arlington, VA

01 Jan 2018 - New Opportunities for Critical Zone Science Following the June 2017 Arlington Meeting for Critical Zone Science (hosted by CZO), a white booklet...

CZOs at AGU 2017

05 Dec 2017 - Information on CZO award recipients, events, presentations, etc. at the 2017 AGU Fall Meeting.

Water Resources Research Special Collection: Concentration-discharge relations in the critical zone

30 Oct 2017 - Water Resources Research published a new special collection in September 2017 featuring concentration-discharge research from multiple CZOs.

More News >

Example Publications


Resolving Deep Critical Zone Architecture in Complex Volcanic Terrain. Moravec B.G., White A.M., Root R.A, Sanchez A., Olshansky Y., Paras B.K., Carr B., McIntosh J., Pelletier J.D., Rasmussen C., Holbrook W.S., Chorover J. (2020): Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 125(1): e2019JF005189 Cross-CZO


Ecological and genomic attributes of novel bacterial taxa that thrive in subsurface soil horizons. Brewer, Tess E., Emma L. Aronson, Keshav Arogyaswamy, Sharon A. Billings, Jon K. Botthoff, Ashley N. Campbell, Nicholas C. Dove, Dawson Fairbanks, Rachel E. Gallery, Stephen C. Hart, Jason Kaye, Gary King, Geoffrey Logan, Kathleen A. Lohse, Mia R. Maltz, Emilio Mayorga, Caitlin O’Neill, Sarah M. Owens, Aaron Packman, Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Alain F. Plante, Daniel D. Richter, Whendee L. Silver, Wendy H. Yang, Noah Fierer (2019): mBio Oct 2019, 10 (5) e01318-19 Cross-CZO National


Vegetation and precipitation shifts interact to alter organic and inorganic carbon storage in desert soils. Huber, D.P., Lohse, K.A., Commendador, A., Joy, S., Finney, B., Aho, K., and M. Germino (2019): Ecosphere 10( 3):e02655


Topographic controls on soil organic carbon on soil-mantled landscapes. Patton, N.P., Lohse, K.A., Seyfried, M., S. Godsey, and S. Parsons (2019): Scientific Reports 9: 6390


Dynamic process connectivity explains ecohydrologic responses to rainfall pulses and drought. Goodwell, A.E., Kumar, P., Fellows, A.W., and Flerchinger, G.N. (2018): PNAS 115 (37) E8604-E8613 Cross-CZO


Ideas and perspectives: Strengthening the biogeosciences in environmental research networks. Richter, D.D., S.A. Billings, P.M. Groffman, E.F. Kelly, K.A. Lohse, W.H. McDowell, T.S. White, S. Anderson, D.D. Baldocchi, S. Banwart, S. Brantley, J.J. Braun, Z.S. Brecheisen, C.W. Cook, H.E. Hartnett, S.E. Hobbie, J. Gaillardet, E. Jobbagy, H.F. Jungkunst, C.E. Kazanski, J. Krishnaswamy, D. Markewitz, K. O’Neill, C.S. Riebe, P. Schroeder, C. Siebe, W.L. Silver, A. Thompson, A. Verhoef, G. Zhang (2018): Biogeosciences 15: 4815-4832 Cross-CZO National


Predicting soil thickness on soil mantled hillslopes. Patton, N.P., Lohse, K.A., S.E. Godsey, Crosby, B.T., and Seyfried, M. (2018): Nature Communications 9: 3329


A field comparison of multiple techniques to quantify groundwater–surface-water interactions. González-Pinzón, R., Ward, A., Hatch, C., Wlostowski, A., Singha, K., Gooseff, M., Haggerty, R., Harvey, J., Cirpka, O., and Brock, J. (2015): Freshwater Science, 34(1) Cross-CZO


Analytical model for flow duration curves in seasonally dry climates. Müller, M.F., Dralle, D.N., and Thompson, S.E. (2014): Water Resources Research 50(7): 5510-5531. Cross-CZO

Winter CO2 efflux from sagebrush shrublands distributed across the rain‐to‐snow transition zone. Fellows, A.W., Flerchinger, G.N., Seyfried, G.N., Biederman, J.A.. and K.A. Lohse (2020): JGR Biogeosciences

Understanding the effect of fire on vegetation composition and gross primary production in a semi-arid shrubland ecosystem using the Ecosystem Demography (EDv22) model. Pandit, K., Dashti, H., Hudak, A.T., Glenn, N.F., Flores, A.N., and D.J. Shinneman (2020): Biogeosciences Discuss.

Interaction of wind and cold‐season hydrologic processes on erosion from complex topography following wildfire in sagebrush steppe. Vega, S.P., Williams, C.J., Brooks, E.S., Pierson, F.B., Strand, E.K., Robichaud, P.R., Brown, R.E., Seyfried, M.S., Lohse, K.A., Glossner, K., Pierce, J.L., C. Roehner (2019): Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

Leveraging environmental research and observation networks to advance soil carbon science. Weintraub, S.R., Flores, A.N., Wieder, W.R., Sihi, D., Cagnarini, C., and D.R.P. Concalves (2019): Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences

Developing and optimizing shrub parameters representing sagebrush (Artemisia spp) ecosystems in the northern Great Basin using the Ecosystem Demography (EDv22) model. Pandit, K., Dashti, H., Glenn, N.F., Flores, A.N., Maguire, K.C., Shinneman, D.J., Flerchinger, G.N., and A.W. Fellows (2019): Geosci. Model Dev.

Regional scale dryland vegetation classification with an integrated lidar-hyperspectral approach. Dashti, H., Poley, A., Glenn, N.F., Ilangakoon, N., Spaete, L., Roberts, D., Enterkine, J., Flores, A.N., Ustin, S.L., and J.J. Mitchell (2019): Remote Sensing

Empirical methods for remote sensing of nitrogen in drylands may lead to unreliable interpretation of ecosystem function. Dashti, H., Glenn, N.F., Ustin, S., Mitchell, J.J., Qi, Y., Ilangakoon, N.T., Flores, A.N., Silvan-Cardenas, J., Zhao, K., Spaete, L.P., and M.A. de Graaff (2019): IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing

More Publications >