Robust Ecosystem Demography (RED version 1.0): a parsimonious approach to modelling vegetation dynamics in Earth system models

Argles, Arthur P.K.; Moore, Jonathan R.; Huntingford, Chris; Wiltshire, Andrew J.; Harper, Anna B.; Jones, Chris D.; Cox, Peter M.. 2020 Robust Ecosystem Demography (RED version 1.0): a parsimonious approach to modelling vegetation dynamics in Earth system models. Geoscientific Model Development, 13 (9). 4067-4089.

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A significant proportion of the uncertainty in climate projections arises from uncertainty in the representation of land carbon uptake. Dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) vary in their representations of regrowth and competition for resources, which results in differing responses to changes in atmospheric CO2 and climate. More advanced cohort-based patch models are now becoming established in the latest DGVMs. These models typically attempt to simulate the size distribution of trees as a function of both tree size (mass or trunk diameter) and age (time since disturbance). This approach can capture the overall impact of stochastic disturbance events on the forest structure and biomass – but at the cost of increasing the number of parameters and ambiguity when updating the probability density function (pdf) in two dimensions. Here we present the Robust Ecosystem Demography (RED), in which the pdf is collapsed onto the single dimension of tree mass. RED is designed to retain the ability of more complex cohort DGVMs to represent forest demography, while also being parameter sparse and analytically solvable for the steady state. The population of each plant functional type (PFT) is partitioned into mass classes with a fixed baseline mortality along with an assumed power-law scaling of growth rate with mass. The analytical equilibrium solutions of RED allow the model to be calibrated against observed forest cover using a single parameter – the ratio of mortality to growth for a tree of a reference mass (μ0). We show that RED can thus be calibrated to the ESA LC_CCI (European Space Agency Land Cover Climate Change Initiative) coverage dataset for nine PFTs. Using net primary productivity and litter outputs from the UK Earth System Model (UKESM), we are able to diagnose the spatially varying disturbance rates consistent with this observed vegetation map. The analytical form for RED circumnavigates the need to spin up the numerical model, making it attractive for application in Earth system models (ESMs). This is especially so given that the model is also highly parameter sparse.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1991-959X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 10 Sep 2020 14:50 +0 (UTC)

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