The Landscape Evolution Observatory: a large-scale controllable infrastructure to study coupled Earth-surface processes

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Zero-order drainage basins, and their constituent hillslopes, are the fundamental geomorphic unit comprising much of Earth's uplands. The convergent topography of these landscapes generates spatially variable substrate and moisture content, facilitating biological diversity and influencing how the landscape filters precipitation and sequesters atmospheric carbon dioxide. In light of these significant ecosystem services, refining our understanding of how these functions are affected by landscape evolution, weather variability, and long-term climate change is imperative. In this paper we introduce the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO): a large-scale controllable infrastructure consisting of three replicated artificial landscapes (each 330 m2 surface area) within the climate-controlled Biosphere 2 facility in Arizona, USA. At LEO, experimental manipulation of rainfall, air temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed are possible at unprecedented scale. The Landscape Evolution Observatory was designed as a community resource to advance understanding of how topography, physical and chemical properties of soil, and biological communities coevolve, and how this coevolution affects water, carbon, and energy cycles at multiple spatial scales. With well-defined boundary conditions and an extensive network of sensors and samplers, LEO enables an iterative scientific approach that includes numerical model development and virtual experimentation, physical experimentation, data analysis, and model refinement. We plan to engage the broader scientific community through public dissemination of data from LEO, collaborative experimental design, and community-based model development.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The Landscape Evolution Observatory: a large-scale controllable infrastructure to study coupled Earth-surface processes
Series title Geomorphology
DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.01.020
Volume 244
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description 14 p.
First page 190
Last page 203
Conference Title 46th Annual Binghamton Geomorphology Symposium
Conference Date September 18-20, 2015
Country United States
State Arizona
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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