Sustaining Earth’s critical zone: basic science and interdisciplinary solutions for global challenges

1024 681 Stroud Water Research Center

Banwart, S.A., J. Chorover, J. Gaillardet, D. Sparks, T. White, S. Anderson, A. Aufdenkampe, et al. 2013. Report of an international workshop on Critical Zone Observatory science, 9-11 November 2011. The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.

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ISBN: 978-0-9576890-0-8

Executive Summary

Earth’s Critical Zone (CZ), the thin outer veneer of our planet from the top of the tree canopy to
the bottom of our drinking water aquifers that supports almost all human activity, is experiencing
ever-increasing pressure from growth in human population and wealth. Within the next 4 decades,
demand for food and fuel is expected to double along with a more than 50% increase in demand
for clean water. Understanding, predicting and managing intensification of land use and associated
economic services, while mitigating and adapting to rapid climate change and biodiversity decline,
is now one of the most pressing societal challenges of the 21st century. The international CZ
science community addressed these challenges at an international workshop, convened November
9th-11th, 2011 at the University of Delaware, USA. This report outlines specific CZ science
advances that will be necessary, and documents the links between basic science advances in
Earth surface processes and the global sustainability agenda. The overarching hypothesis is that
accelerating changes in land use, atmospheric composition and climate are forcing rapid and
profound changes in the continental surface that require an unprecedented intensity and scale of
scientific observation and new knowledge to guide intervention. Six priority science questions are
identified briefly as follows and detailed in full on page 20 of this volume.