Where does the carbon go? A model-data intercomparison of vegetation carbon allocation and turnover processes at two temperate forest free-air CO2 enrichment sites.


Elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration (eCO2) has the potential to increase vegetation carbon storage if increased net primary production causes increased long-lived biomass. Model predictions of eCO2 effects on vegetation carbon storage depend on how allocation and turnover processes are represented. We used data from two temperate forest free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments to evaluate representations of allocation and turnover in 11 ecosystem models. Observed eCO2 effects on allocation were dynamic. Allocation schemes based on functional relationships among biomass fractions that vary with resource availability were best able to capture the general features of the observations. Allocation schemes based on constant fractions or resource limitations performed less well, with some models having unintended outcomes. Few models represent turnover processes mechanistically and there was wide variation in predictions of tissue lifespan. Consequently, models did not perform well at predicting eCO2 effects on vegetation carbon storage. Our recommendations to reduce uncertainty include: use of allocation schemes constrained by biomass fractions; careful testing of allocation schemes; and synthesis of allocation and turnover data in terms of model parameters. Data from intensively studied ecosystem manipulation experiments are invaluable for constraining models and we recommend that such experiments should attempt to fully quantify carbon, water and nutrient budgets.





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Publication Info

De Kauwe, Martin G, Belinda E Medlyn, Sönke Zaehle, Anthony P Walker, Michael C Dietze, Ying-Ping Wang, Yiqi Luo, Atul K Jain, et al. (2014). Where does the carbon go? A model-data intercomparison of vegetation carbon allocation and turnover processes at two temperate forest free-air CO2 enrichment sites. The New phytologist, 203(3). pp. 883–899. 10.1111/nph.12847 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27529.

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Ram Oren

Nicholas Distinguished Professor of Earth Systems Science

With his graduate students, Oren quantifies components of the water cycle in forest ecosystems, and their responses to biotic and abiotic factors. Relying on the strong links between the carbon and water cycles, he also studies the components of the carbon flux and their response to these factors. Climate variability, including variations in air temperature, vapor pressure deficit, incoming radiation and soil moisture, and environmental change, including elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, affect the intra- and inter-annual dynamics, and amounts of water used by forest ecosystems, and their spatial distribution, as well as carbon uptake and sequestration. In turn, the variation of water flux influence the temporal and spatial partitioning of incoming radiation between latent and sensible heat. The flow of water from soil through plant leaves into the atmosphere, and the exchange of water for CO2 absorbed from the atmospheric, are among the processes theoretically best understood in plant and ecosystem physiology. Using these theories, local mass balance approaches, and detailed measurements of water and carbon flux and driving variables in the soil, plants, and the atmosphere, Oren has been attempting to predict the likely responses of forest ecosystems, from the equator to the arctic circle, to environmental change and management.

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