Energy, water, and carbon fluxes in a loblolly pine stand: Results from uniform and gappy canopy models with comparisons to eddy flux data

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This study investigates the impacts of canopy structure specification on modeling net radiation (Rn), latent heat flux (LE) and net photosynthesis (An) by coupling two contrasting radiation transfer models with a two-leaf photosynthesis model for a maturing loblolly pine stand near Durham, North Carolina, USA. The first radiation transfer model is based on a uniform canopy representation (UCR) that assumes leaves are randomly distributed within the canopy, and the second radiation transfer model is based on a gappy canopy representation (GCR) in which leaves are clumped into individual crowns, thereby forming gaps between the crowns. To isolate the effects of canopy structure on model results, we used identical model parameters taken from the literature for both models. Canopy structure has great impact on energy distribution between the canopy and the forest floor. Comparing the model results, UCR produced lower Rn, higher LE and higher A n than GCR. UCR intercepted more shortwave radiation inside the canopy, thus producing less radiation absorption on the forest floor and in turn lower Rn. There is a higher degree of nonlinearity between A n estimated by UCR and by GCR than for LE. Most of the difference for LE and An between UCR and GCR occurred around noon, when gaps between crowns can be seen from the direction of the incident sunbeam. Comparing with eddy-covariance measurements in the same loblolly pine stand from May to September 2001, based on several measures GCR provided more accurate estimates for Rn, LE and An than UCR. The improvements when using GCR were much clearer when comparing the daytime trend of LE and An for the growing season. Sensitivity analysis showed that UCR produces higher LE and An estimates than GCR for canopy cover ranging from 0.2 to 0.8. There is a high degree of nonlinearity in the relationship between UCR estimates for An and those of GCR, particularly when canopy cover is low, and suggests that simple scaling of UCR parameters cannot compensate for differences between the two models. LE from UCR and GCR is also nonlinearly related when canopy cover is low, but the nonlinearity quickly disappears as canopy cover increases, such that LE from UCR and GCR are linearly related and the relationship becomes stronger as canopy cover increases. These results suggest the uniform canopy assumption can lead to underestimation of Rn, and overestimation of LE and An. Given the potential in mapping regional scale forest canopy structure with high spatial resolution optical and Lidar remote sensing plotforms, it is possible to use GCR for up-scaling ecosystem processes from flux tower measurements to heterogeneous landscapes, provided the heterogeneity is not too extreme to modify the flow dynamics. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.






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Song, C, G Katul, R Oren, LE Band, CL Tague, PC Stoy and HR McCarthy (2009). Energy, water, and carbon fluxes in a loblolly pine stand: Results from uniform and gappy canopy models with comparisons to eddy flux data. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 114(4). p. G04021. 10.1029/2009JG000951 Retrieved from

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Gabriel G. Katul

George Pearsall Distinguished Professor

Gabriel G. Katul received his B.E. degree in 1988 at the American University of Beirut (Beirut, Lebanon), his M.S. degree in 1990 at Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR) and his Ph.D degree in 1993 at the University of California in Davis (Davis, CA).  He currently holds a distinguished Professorship in Hydrology and Micrometeorology at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University (Durham, NC).   He was a visiting fellow at University of Virginia (USA) in 1997, the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization (Australia) in 2002, the University of Helsinki (Finland) in 2009,  the FulBright-Italy Distinguished Fellow at Politecnico di Torino (Italy) in 2010, the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland) in 2013,  Nagoya University (Japan) in 2014, University of Helsinki (Finland) in 2017, the Karlsruher Institute for Technology (Germany) in 2017, Princeton University (USA) in 2020, and CzechGlobe (Brno - Czech Republic) in 2023. He received several honorary awards, including the inspirational teaching award by the students of the School of the Environment at Duke University (in 1994 and 1996), an honorary certificate by La Seccion de Agrofisica de la Sociedad Cubana de Fisica in Habana (in 1998), the Macelwane medal and became thereafter a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (in 2002), the editor’s citation for excellence in refereeing from the American Geophysical Union (in 2008), the Hydrologic Science Award from the American Geophysical Union (in 2012), the John Dalton medal from the European Geosciences Union (in 2018), and the Outstanding Achievements in Biometeorology Award from the American Meteorological Society (in 2021) and later became an elected fellow of the American Meteorological Society (in 2024).  Katul was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (in 2023) for his contributions in eco-hydrology and environmental fluid mechanics.  He served as the Secretary General for the Hydrologic Science Section at the American Geophysical Union (2006-2008).  His research focuses on micro-meteorology and near-surface hydrology with emphasis on heat, momentum, carbon dioxide, water vapor, ozone, particulate matter (including aerosols, pollen, and seeds) and water transport in the soil-plant-atmosphere system as well as their implications to a plethora of hydrological, ecological, atmospheric and climate change related problems.


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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