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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nitrogen Controls on Climate Model Evapotranspiration

  • Author(s): Dickinson, Robert E.
  • Berry, Joseph A.
  • Bonan, Gordon B.
  • Collatz, G. James
  • Field, Christopher B.
  • Fung, Inez Y.
  • Goulden, Michael
  • Hoffmann, William A.
  • Jackson, Robert B.
  • Myneni, Ranga
  • Sellers, Piers J.
  • Shaikh, Muhammad
  • et al.

Most evapotranspiration over land occurs through vegetation. The fraction of net radiation balanced by evapotranspiration depends on stomatal controls. Stomates transpire water for the leaf to assimilate carbon, depending on the canopy carbon demand, and on root uptake, if it is limiting. Canopy carbon demand in turn depends on the balancing between visible photon-driven and enzyme-driven steps in the leaf carbon physiology. The enzyme-driven component is here represented by a Rubisco-related nitrogen reservoir that interacts with plant–soil nitrogen cycling and other components of a climate model. Previous canopy carbon models included in GCMs have assumed either fixed leaf nitrogen, that is, prescribed photosynthetic capacities, or an optimization between leaf nitrogen and light levels so that in either case stomatal conductance varied only with light levels and temperature.

A nitrogen model is coupled to a previously derived but here modified carbon model and includes, besides the enzyme reservoir, additional plant stores for leaf structure and roots. It also includes organic and mineral reservoirs in the soil; the latter are generated, exchanged, and lost by biological fixation, deposition and fertilization, mineralization, nitrification, root uptake, denitrification, and leaching. The root nutrient uptake model is a novel and simple, but rigorous, treatment of soil transport and root physiological uptake. The other soil components are largely derived from previously published parameterizations and global budget constraints.

The feasibility of applying the derived biogeochemical cycling model to climate model calculations of evapotranspiration is demonstrated through its incorporation in the Biosphere–Atmosphere Transfer Scheme land model and a 17-yr Atmospheric Model Inter comparison Project II integration with the NCAR CCM3 GCM. The derived global budgets show land net primary production (NPP), fine root carbon, and various aspects of the nitrogen cycling are reasonably consistent with past studies. Time series for monthly statistics averaged over model grid points for the Amazon evergreen forest and lower Colorado basin demonstrate the coupled interannual variability of modeled precipitation, evapotranspiration, NPP, and canopy Rubisco enzymes.

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