Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory
National Science Foundation, Division of Earth Sciences, Award #0722476
Principal Investigator (Former PI: Fred Scatena)
This project will establish a monitoring network in two watersheds of the Luquillo National Forest in Puerto Rico to evaluate the physical, chemical, hydrological and biological processes involved in weathering of bedrock and the evolution of the soil environment. This will be an addition to the Critical Zone Observatories (CZO) that are being initiated at various locations in North America. The Luquillo CZO will use the natural laboratory of the Luquillo Mountains to quantify and contrast how critical zone processes in watersheds underlain by granodiorite and volcaniclastic bedrock are affected by climatic conditions and hydrologic, geochemical and biogeochemical cycles. A set of interrelated hypothesis, sampling sites, and a unified data management system will allow critical zone processes to be contrasted by bedrock, landscape position (ridge, hillslope, riparian), depth (surface to bedrock), forest type (Tabonuco, Colorado, Cloud) and location (upland to coastal).
Changing climate affects many processes, and the breakdown of rocks into soil; is one of the most important. In addition, there may be changes in water flow in rivers, as well as erosion of surficial materials. Sediment is already the nation’s largest water quality pollutant and modern land uses are eroding soils and sculpting bedrock in unprecedented ways. The Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory will provide the infrastructure and baseline studies needed to evaluate short and long-term impacts of this erosion on soil and water resources. The Observatory will also support integrated, multi-institutional and multicultural exchanges among a diverse cadre of scientists, who will collaborate to determine the effects of climate change on the terrestrial environment.