Genome-to-Watershed Predictive Understanding of Terrestrial Environments

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Susan S. Hubbard1, Deb Agarwal1, Jillian F Banfield1,2, Harry R Beller1, Eoin Brodie1, Phillip Long1, Peter S Nico1, Carl I Steefel1, Tetsu K Tokunaga1 and Kenneth Hurst Williams1, (1)Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, United States, (2)University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States
Although terrestrial environments play a critical role in cycling water, greenhouse gasses, and other life-critical elements, the complexity of interactions among component microbes, plants, minerals, migrating fluids and dissolved constituents hinders predictive understanding of system behavior. The ‘Sustainable Systems 2.0’ project is developing genome-to-watershed scale predictive capabilities to quantify how the microbiome affects biogeochemical watershed functioning, how watershed-scale hydro-biogeochemical processes affect microbial functioning, and how these interactions co-evolve with climate and land-use changes. Development of such predictive capabilities is critical for guiding the optimal management of water resources, contaminant remediation, carbon stabilization, and agricultural sustainability – now and with global change.

Initial investigations are focused on floodplains in the Colorado River Basin, and include iterative model development, experiments and observations with an early emphasis on subsurface aspects. Field experiments include local-scale experiments at Rifle CO to quantify spatiotemporal metabolic and geochemical responses to O2and nitrate amendments as well as floodplain-scale monitoring to quantify genomic and biogeochemical response to natural hydrological perturbations. Information obtained from such experiments are represented within GEWaSC, a Genome-Enabled Watershed Simulation Capability, which is being developed to allow mechanistic interrogation of how genomic information stored in a subsurface microbiome affects biogeochemical cycling.

This presentation will describe the genome-to-watershed scale approach as well as early highlights associated with the project. Highlights include: first insights into the diversity of the subsurface microbiome and metabolic roles of organisms involved in subsurface nitrogen, sulfur and hydrogen and carbon cycling; the extreme variability of subsurface DOC and hydrological controls on carbon and nitrogen cycling; geophysical identification of floodplain hotspots that are useful for model parameterization; and GEWaSC demonstration of how incorporation of identified microbial metabolic processes improves prediction of the larger system biogeochemical behavior.