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Subsurface Biogeochemical Research Program

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New Environmental System Science Website

We’re working on a new ESS website that reflects the merger of the Subsurface Biogeochemical Research and Terrestrial Ecosystem Science programs. Visit for a preview of the new site and check back regularly for updates and expanded content. For now, you can navigate between the current TES and SBR sites and the new ESS site using the banner at the top of each page.

Predictive Understanding of Watershed Systems

Predictive Understanding of Watershed Systems. Watersheds serve as the fundamental hydrological units that connect terrestrial and aquatic systems. The overarching goal of the Subsurface Biogeochemical Research program is to advance a robust, predictive understanding of watershed function and response to perturbations as needed to address U.S. energy and environmental challenges. [Image courtesy LBNL and SLAC]


The Subsurface Biogeochemical Research (SBR) program seeks to advance a robust, predictive understanding of how watersheds function as integrated hydrobiogeochemical systems and how these systems respond to perturbations caused by changes in weather patterns, extremes, land use, water management, vegetation cover, snowmelt timing, and nutrient and contaminant release. SBR researchers are encouraged to use a systems approach to probe the multiscale structure and functioning of watersheds and to capture this understanding in mechanistic models representing both the complexities of the terrestrial subsurface and ecohydrological interactions with surface waterbodies and vegetation.

To accomplish this goal, SBR has five priority research objectives that are being pursued through a network of watershed testbeds within the contiguous United States. These objectives include:

  • Quantifying how biological behavior, abiotic-biotic interactions, and molecular transformations control the mobility of contaminants (e.g., uranium, technetium, and mercury), nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon), and critical biogeochemical elements (e.g., sulfur, iron, and manganese).
  • Quantifying and predicting how hydrology drives fine-scale biogeochemical processes in surface-subsurface systems.
  • Translating biogeochemical behavior across relevant molecular to watershed scales to accurately and tractably predict flows of water, nutrients, and contaminants.
  • Identifying, quantifying, and predicting watershed responses to natural and anthropogenic perturbations and shifts to new states.
  • Translating predictive understanding of watershed system function and evolution into near- and long-term environmental and energy strategies.

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Research Highlights

View all PI-Submitted Research Highlights »

PI-Submitted Research Highlights for Subsurface Biogeochemical Research Program

Now Featuring

Open Watershed Science by Design Workshop Report

October 2019

EESSD Strategic Plan 2018

Download PDF

Subsurface Biogeochemical Research Overview

November 2019 [PDF]