Urban critical zone observatory

Since 2018, we have been working with the City of Richmond Hill, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), and Credit Valley Conservation via NSERC-funded research to understand phosphorus and other nutrients' retention and transport in urban landscapes by collecting data at these urban observatory field sites in the greater Toronto area to develop models to forecast the impact of climate change on these processes.

Learn more about our ongoing work on ResearchGate.

Our Urban Critical Zone Observatory consists of multiple sites: We are evaluating the impact of urbanization and urban infrastructure in stormwater sewers, in green infrastructure (stormwater ponds and bioretention cells), and in an urban lake.

We are monitoring water quality and water discharge at two storm sewer sites and at the inlet and outlet of a stormwater pond (green infrastucture) site.
We are also evaluating the performance and aging of a bioretention cell site in Mississauga, Ontario using data collected by Credit Valley Conservation.
We are also evaluating the impact of urbanization on water quality, especially on eutrophication, in Lake Wilcox, a lake located in the city of Richmond Hill, whose watershed has been increasingly urbanized since the 1990s.

person's hand holding a cell phone over a maintenance hole to collect data from loggerpond with plants around the outside shore and in an urban area

The Grand River and the Grand River watershed

Publications from our work on the Grand River and its watershed:

Van Meter, K. J., McLeod, M. M., Liu, J., Thierry Tenkouano, G., Hall, R. I., Van Cappellen, P., and Basu, N. B. (2021) Beyond the mass balance: Watershed phosphorus legacies and the evolution of the current water quality policy challenge. Water Resources Research 57, e2020WR029316.

Maavara T., Slowinski S., Rezanezhad F., Van Meter K., and Van Cappellen, P. (2018) The role of groundwater discharge fluxes on Si:P ratios in a major tributary to Lake Erie. Science of the Total Environment. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.12.024.

rare Charitable Research Reserve, 2012-present


Since 2012, we have worked with rare at Bauman Creek and at agricultural fields to study riparian-aquifer interactions and their influence on riparian biogeochemistry and agricultural soil nutrient and carbon dynamics and the biogeochemistry of reactive interfaces at the rare field sites.

Publications from our work at rare:

Pronk, G.J., Mellage, A., Milojevic, T., Smeaton, C.M., Engel, K., Neufeld, J.D., Rezanezhad, F., and Van Cappellen, P. (2020). Carbon turnover and microbial activity in an artificial soil under imposed cyclic drainage and imbibition. Vadose Zone Journal 19, e20021. doi: 10.1002/vzj2.20021

Krogstad, K. (2021). Impact of Winter Soil Processes on Nutrient Leaching in Cold Region Agroecosystems. MSc thesis.

Fairbairn, L. (2020). Linking soil moisture content and carbon dioxide fluxes: From batch experiments to process-based modelling. MSc thesis.

Niederkorn, A. (2015). Surface-subsurface hydrologic exchange and nutrient dynamics in a groundwater-fed stream, Bauman Creek, Ontario, Canada. MSc thesis.

Cootes Paradise Marsh, 2012 to present

Eutrophication in Cootes ParadiseCootes Paradise Marsh suffers from extensive summer algal growth due to nutrient excess, particularly phosphorus. An ongoing study here aims to improve our understanding of how and when the sediment switches between acting as a sink of nutrients to becoming a source.

Publications from our work at Cootes Paradise:

Parsons C.T., Rezanezhad F., O'Connell D.W., and Van Cappellen P. (2017) Sediment phosphorus speciation and mobility under dynamic redox conditions. Biogeosciences. doi:10.5194/bg-14-3585-2017.

Huang, L. (2020). Mechanisms controlling the recycling of nutrient silicon in freshwater sediments: An experimental study of the interactions between silicon, iron and phosphorus. PhD thesis.

Sabur, M. A. (2019). Interactions of Phosphate and Silicate with Iron oxides in Freshwater Environments. PhD thesis.

Ridenour, C. (2017). Biogeochemical cycling of nutrient silicon in a human-impacted large lake nearshore environment (Hamilton Harbour Area of Concern, Lake Ontario, Canada). MSc thesis.

Fanshawe Reservoir and the Thames River, 2018-2020

Publications from our work at Fanshawe Reservoir and the Thames River:

N. Kao, M. Mohamed, R.J. Sorichetti, A. Niederkorn, P. Van Cappellen, C.T. Parsons. (2021). Phosphorus retention and transformation in a dammed reservoir of the Thames River, Ontario: Impacts on phosphorus load and speciation. Journal of Great Lakes Research, DOI: 10.1016/j.jglr.2021.11.008

Kao, N. (2020). Influence of a dammed reservoir on nutrient (N, P, Si) loads and ratios of the Thames River, Ontario. MSc thesis.

Yu, S. (2020). Modeling phosphorus cycling in a seasonally stratified reservoir (Fanshawe Reservoir, Ontario, Canada). MSc thesis.

The Laurentian Great Lakes and the Great Lakes basin

Van Staden T.L., Van Meter, K. J., Basu, N.B., Parsons, C.T., Akbarzadeh, Z., Van Cappellen, P. (2021). Agricultural phosphorus surplus trajectories for Ontario, Canada (1961–2016), and erosional export risk. Science of The Total Environment, DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151717.

Driedger A.G.J., Dürr H.H., Mitchell K., and Van Cappellen P. (2015) Plastic debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes: A review. Journal of Great Lakes Research. doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2014.12.020.

Bocaniov, S. A., Van Cappellen, P., and Scavia, D. (2019) On the role of a large shallow lake (Lake St. Clair, USA‐Canada) in modulating phosphorus loads to Lake Erie. Water Resources Research 55. doi: 10.1029/2019WR025019.

Lake 227, IISD-Experimental Lakes Area

David O'Connell

Publication from our work at Lake 227 at the IISD-ELA:

O'Connell, D.W., Ansems, N., Kukkadapu, R.K., Jaisi, D., Orihel, D.M., Cade-Menun, B.J., Hu, Y., Wiklund, J., Hall, R.I., Chessell, H., Behrends, T., and Van Cappellen, P. (2020). Changes in sedimentary phosphorus burial following artificial eutrophication of Lake 227, Experimental Lakes Area, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 125, 5713. doi: 10.1029/2020JG005713