Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed

Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed was established in 1960 by the USDA ARS as an experimental watershed to support research that addresses issues of water supply, seasonal snow, soil freezing, water quality and rangeland hydrology in semi-arid rangelands of the interior Pacific Northwest.

Located in southwestern Idaho, the RCEW (239 km2) extends over a steep climatic gradient (mean annual precipitation 250 – 1100 mm/yr, mean annual temperature 5.5 °C to 11°C). The environmental variability is driven by the nearly 1000 m elevation range and variable geology. Rain is the dominant form of precipitation in the RCEW, with snow dominating in the highest elevations. Corresponding vegetation types include Wyoming sagebrush steppe in the lower elevations, transitioning to mountain sagebrush, western juniper, aspen and coniferous forest at higher elevations. An extensive description of the RCEW environment can be found in Seyfried et al., (2001).

The RCEW is highly instrumented (Marks, 2009) with long-term, published databases (Marks, 2001; Slaughter et al., 2001; Reba, et al., 2011, Enslin et al., 2016; Kormos et al., 2016a,b). The current instrumentation network at RCEW includes eleven weirs, thirty-two primary and five secondary meteorological measurement stations, twenty-four precipitation stations, eight snow course and five snow study sites, thirty-seven soil temperature and moisture measurement sites with five sub-surface hill-slope hydrology sites, five Eddy Covariance (EC) systems, and five intensively instrumented (automated) water chemistry sites. Four subwatersheds are the more intensively monitored watersheds. (show figu)

Contributions of scientists and consistent support staff have lead to one of the most spatially and temporally extensive climate and stream flow records in this region (239 km2 and 50+ yrs) and resulted in numerous papers documenting changes in hydrology to climate, land use, and responses to altered fire regimes. Owing to its unique characteristics and temporally and spatially extensive climatic and hydrologic datasets, the RCEW was selected by the National Science Foundation in 2013 as a Critical Zone Observatory with the overarching objective of improving prediction of soil carbon storage and fluxes at the pedon to landscape scale.