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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Boreal forest CO2 exchange and evapotranspiration predicted by nine ecosystem process models: Intermodel comparisons and relationships to field measurements


Nine ecosystem process models were used to predict CO2 and water vapor exchanges by a 150-year-old black spruce forest in central Canada during 1994–1996 to evaluate and improve the models. Three models had hourly time steps, five had daily time steps, and one had monthly time steps. Model input included site ecosystem characteristics and meteorology. Model predictions were compared to eddy covariance (EC) measurements of whole-ecosystem CO2 exchange and evapotranspiration, to chamber measurements of nighttime moss-surface CO2 release, and to ground-based estimates of annual gross primary production, net primary production, net ecosystem production (NEP), plant respiration, and decomposition. Model-model differences were apparent for all variables. Model-measurement agreement was good in some cases but poor in others. Modeled annual NEP ranged from −11 g C m−2 (weak CO2 source) to 85 g C m−2 (moderate CO2 sink). The models generally predicted greater annual CO2 sink activity than measured by EC, a discrepancy consistent with the fact that model parameterizations represented the more productive fraction of the EC tower “footprint.” At hourly to monthly timescales, predictions bracketed EC measurements so median predictions were similar to measurements, but there were quantitatively important model-measurement discrepancies found for all models at subannual timescales. For these models and input data, hourly time steps (and greater complexity) compared to daily time steps tended to improve model-measurement agreement for daily scale CO2 exchange and evapotranspiration (as judged by root-mean-squared error). Model time step and complexity played only small roles in monthly to annual predictions.

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