Monday, November 1, 2010
The Critical Zone - need I say more
This weeks Smith Lecturer is Suzanne Anderson from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Anderson's research uses field work to understand the mechanisms by which chemical and physical processes shape the Earth's surface and control chemical weathering and erosion. She will be focusing on the Critical Zone - a term that is coming into wide use to describe the layer of loose, heterogeneous material covering solid rock, and includes vegetation, the water table and water bodies. Within this zone a number of physical, chemical, and biological processes and reactions occur that impact mass and energy exchange necessary for biomass productivity, chemical recycling, and water storage. The concept of the Critical Zone unifies many complex biogeochemical and physical geologic processes in an attempt to create a numeric value from which predictions can be made. Why might this be important? You might want to make predictions based on the Critical Zone if you were interested in understanding how contaminants (heavy metals, radioactive material and other pollutents) might spread through the environment for example. This weeks reading is a review paper Anderson wrote for the magazine 'Elements'. This magazine is produced for a number of minerological and gechemical societies, with each issue exploring broad and current themes in the mineral sciences.