An open system framework for integrating critical zone structure and function

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The "critical zone" includes the coupled earth surface systems of vegetation, regolith and groundwater that are essential to sustaining life on the planet. The function of this zone is the result of complex interactions among physical, chemical and biological processes and understanding these interactions remains a major challenge to earth system sciences. Here we develop an integrated framework based on thermodynamic theory to characterize the critical zone as a system open to energy and mass fluxes that are forced by radiant, geochemical, and elevational gradients. We derive a statement that demonstrates the relative importance of solar radiation, water, carbon, and physical/chemical denudation mass fluxes to the critical zone energy balance. Within this framework we use rates of effective energy and mass transfer [EEMT; W m-2] to quantify the relevant flux-gradient relations. Synthesis of existing data demonstrates that variation in energetics associated with primary production and effective precipitation explains substantial variance in critical zone structure and function. Furthermore, we observe threshold behavior in systems that transition to primary production predominance of the energy flux term. The proposed framework provides a first order approximation of non-linearity in critical zone processes that may be coupled with physical and numerical models to constrain landscape evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-29
Number of pages15
JournalBiogeochemistry
Volume102
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2011

Fingerprint

Open systems
Mass transfer
Earth (planet)
Fluxes
Systems science
Planets
Energy balance
Solar radiation
Energy transfer
primary production
Numerical models
Groundwater
Carbon
Thermodynamics
Water
landscape evolution
regolith
denudation
energy flux
chemical process

Keywords

  • Biogeochemistry
  • Critical zone
  • Ecohydrology
  • Energy and matter transfer
  • Hydrologic partitioning
  • Landscape evolution
  • Open system thermodynamics
  • Pedogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

Cite this

@article{f2d4bcd94b874236bacb505aa15c8310,
title = "An open system framework for integrating critical zone structure and function",
abstract = "The {"}critical zone{"} includes the coupled earth surface systems of vegetation, regolith and groundwater that are essential to sustaining life on the planet. The function of this zone is the result of complex interactions among physical, chemical and biological processes and understanding these interactions remains a major challenge to earth system sciences. Here we develop an integrated framework based on thermodynamic theory to characterize the critical zone as a system open to energy and mass fluxes that are forced by radiant, geochemical, and elevational gradients. We derive a statement that demonstrates the relative importance of solar radiation, water, carbon, and physical/chemical denudation mass fluxes to the critical zone energy balance. Within this framework we use rates of effective energy and mass transfer [EEMT; W m-2] to quantify the relevant flux-gradient relations. Synthesis of existing data demonstrates that variation in energetics associated with primary production and effective precipitation explains substantial variance in critical zone structure and function. Furthermore, we observe threshold behavior in systems that transition to primary production predominance of the energy flux term. The proposed framework provides a first order approximation of non-linearity in critical zone processes that may be coupled with physical and numerical models to constrain landscape evolution.",
keywords = "Biogeochemistry, Critical zone, Ecohydrology, Energy and matter transfer, Hydrologic partitioning, Landscape evolution, Open system thermodynamics, Pedogenesis",
author = "Craig Rasmussen and Troch, {Peter A} and Jon Chorover and Paul Brooks and Jon Pelletier and Huxman, {Travis E.}",
year = "2011",
doi = "10.1007/s10533-010-9476-8",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "102",
pages = "15--29",
journal = "Biogeochemistry",
issn = "0168-2563",
publisher = "Springer Netherlands",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - An open system framework for integrating critical zone structure and function

AU - Rasmussen, Craig

AU - Troch, Peter A

AU - Chorover, Jon

AU - Brooks, Paul

AU - Pelletier, Jon

AU - Huxman, Travis E.

PY - 2011

Y1 - 2011

N2 - The "critical zone" includes the coupled earth surface systems of vegetation, regolith and groundwater that are essential to sustaining life on the planet. The function of this zone is the result of complex interactions among physical, chemical and biological processes and understanding these interactions remains a major challenge to earth system sciences. Here we develop an integrated framework based on thermodynamic theory to characterize the critical zone as a system open to energy and mass fluxes that are forced by radiant, geochemical, and elevational gradients. We derive a statement that demonstrates the relative importance of solar radiation, water, carbon, and physical/chemical denudation mass fluxes to the critical zone energy balance. Within this framework we use rates of effective energy and mass transfer [EEMT; W m-2] to quantify the relevant flux-gradient relations. Synthesis of existing data demonstrates that variation in energetics associated with primary production and effective precipitation explains substantial variance in critical zone structure and function. Furthermore, we observe threshold behavior in systems that transition to primary production predominance of the energy flux term. The proposed framework provides a first order approximation of non-linearity in critical zone processes that may be coupled with physical and numerical models to constrain landscape evolution.

AB - The "critical zone" includes the coupled earth surface systems of vegetation, regolith and groundwater that are essential to sustaining life on the planet. The function of this zone is the result of complex interactions among physical, chemical and biological processes and understanding these interactions remains a major challenge to earth system sciences. Here we develop an integrated framework based on thermodynamic theory to characterize the critical zone as a system open to energy and mass fluxes that are forced by radiant, geochemical, and elevational gradients. We derive a statement that demonstrates the relative importance of solar radiation, water, carbon, and physical/chemical denudation mass fluxes to the critical zone energy balance. Within this framework we use rates of effective energy and mass transfer [EEMT; W m-2] to quantify the relevant flux-gradient relations. Synthesis of existing data demonstrates that variation in energetics associated with primary production and effective precipitation explains substantial variance in critical zone structure and function. Furthermore, we observe threshold behavior in systems that transition to primary production predominance of the energy flux term. The proposed framework provides a first order approximation of non-linearity in critical zone processes that may be coupled with physical and numerical models to constrain landscape evolution.

KW - Biogeochemistry

KW - Critical zone

KW - Ecohydrology

KW - Energy and matter transfer

KW - Hydrologic partitioning

KW - Landscape evolution

KW - Open system thermodynamics

KW - Pedogenesis

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=78650310915&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=78650310915&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1007/s10533-010-9476-8

DO - 10.1007/s10533-010-9476-8

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:78650310915

VL - 102

SP - 15

EP - 29

JO - Biogeochemistry

JF - Biogeochemistry

SN - 0168-2563

IS - 1

ER -