The Critical Zone

Links to the Critical Zone


If you have not concluded that the Critical Zone is a complex maze of processes and interactions, you soon will. By now you should clearly understand the links between the atmosphere, climate, and the water cycle. You should have a basic understanding of how water interacts with the lithosphere, though we will explore this in more detail in the next unit. You should also know that freshwater in the Critical Zone is unevenly distributed on Earth and that this leads to variations in the character of and processes operational in the Critical Zone from region to region.

Reading assignment

Please read the following manuscript to solidify your understanding of the links between surface and groundwater quality and quantity and the surrounding landscape.

  • Peters, Norman E., and Michel Meybeck. (2000).Water Quality Degradation Effects on Freshwater Availability: Impacts of Human Activities, Water International, 25.2, pp. 185–193, located on Library Reserves.

This is an excellent review of much of the material covered in Unit 4—pay particular attention to the schematic figures. Also, note the attention placed on human interactions with the water cycle. As you do so, begin to think about the role of humanity on your study site –(your site is probably not pristine even if it is located in a state or national forest), as you will be required to assess the impact of past, present, and potential future human impacts on your site as part of your semester project.