TitleExpanding the role of reactive transport models in critical zone processes
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsLi L., Maher K., Navarre-Sitchler A., Druhan J., Meile C., Lawrence C., Moore J., Perdrial J., Sullivan P., Thompson A., Jin L., Bolton E., Brantley S., Dietrich W., Mayer K., Steefel C., Valocchi A., Zachara J., Kocar BD, Mcintosh J., Tutolo B., Kumar M., Sonnenthal E., Bao C., Beisman J.
JournalEarth-Science Reviews

Models test our understanding of processes and can reach beyond the spatial and temporal scales of measurements. Multi-component Reactive Transport Models (RTMs), initially developed more than three decades ago, have been used extensively to explore the interactions of geothermal, hydrologic, geochemical, and geobiological processes in subsurface systems. Driven by extensive data sets now available from intensive measurement efforts, there is a pressing need to couple RTMs with other community models to explore non-linear interactions among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere. Here we briefly review the history of RTM development, summarize the current state of RTM approaches, and identify new research directions, opportunities, and infrastructure needs to broaden the use of RTMs. In particular, we envision the expanded use of RTMs in advancing process understanding in the Critical Zone, the veneer of the Earth that extends from the top of vegetation to the bottom of groundwater. We argue that, although parsimonious models are essential at larger scales, process-based models offer tools to explore the highly nonlinear coupling that characterizes natural systems. We present seven testable hypotheses that emphasize the unique capabilities of process-based RTMs for (1) elucidating chemical weathering and its physical and biogeochemical drivers; (2) understanding the interactions among roots, micro-organisms, carbon, water, and minerals in the rhizosphere; (3) assessing the effects of heterogeneity across spatial and temporal scales; and (4) integrating the vast quantity of novel data, including "omics" data (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics), elemental concentration and speciation data, and isotope data into our understanding of complex earth surface systems. With strong support from data-driven sciences, we are now in an exciting era where integration of RTM framework into other community models will facilitate process understanding across disciplines and across scales. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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    Kocar Lab
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    <p><span>Professor Benjamin Kocar</span><br><span>Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering</span><br><span>Massachusetts Institute of Technology</span><br><span>15 Vassar Street</span><br><span>Cambridge, MA 02139</span></p>
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    Laboratory for Process-Based Biogeochemistry
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    Our group measures and deciphers biogeochemical processes responsible for controlling the fate and cycling of nutrients, contaminants, and trace gases in soils, sediments, and natural waters. These biotic and biotic reactions are often chemically intertwined and transpire within complex systems containing aqueous solutions, mineral assemblages, gases, and microorganisms.

    Further, they are often linked with other physical and (geo)chemical processes, including hydraulic transport and photochemical reaction pathways. We are particularly interested in these “coupled” processes, since they often dominate pathways controlling the cycling of elements in natural and engineered systems. We perform laboratory experiments to understand the importance of specific (coupled) processes, and use variety of analytical tools, including conventional and synchrotron-based techniques, to understand mechanisms at the molecular scale. A goal of our group is to understand how these reactions “scale-up”, and this is accomplished by linking molecular-scale reactions and processes with observed field measurements using computational tools such as reactive transport modeling. <

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