South American mountain ecosystems and global change – a case study for integrating theory and field observations for land surface modelling and ecosystem management

Nagy, Laszlo; Eller, Cleiton B.; Mercado, Lina M. ORCID:; Cuesta, Francisco X.; Llambí, Luís D.; Buscardo, Erika; Aragão, Luiz E.O.C.; García-Núñez, Carlos; Oliveira, Rafael S.; Barbosa, Milton; Ceballos, Sergio J.; Calderón-Loor, Marco; Fernandes, G. Wilson; Aráoz, Ezequiel; Muñoz, Ariadna M.Q.; Rozzi, Ricardo; Aguirre, Francisco; Álvarez-Dávila, Esteban; Salinas, Norma; Sitch, Stephen. 2023 South American mountain ecosystems and global change – a case study for integrating theory and field observations for land surface modelling and ecosystem management. Plant Ecology & Diversity.

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•Background:Plot-based monitoring has yielded much information on the taxonomic diversity and carbon (C) storage in tropical lowland forests of the Amazon basin. This has resulted in an improved understanding of the relationship between lowland forest biomass dynamics and global change drivers, such as climate change and atmospheric CO2 concentration. Much less attention has been paid to the mountain ecosystems of South America that comprise montane forests and alpine vegetation (páramo, puna, high Andean grasslands, wetlands, and alpine heath). This vegetation complex provides a variety of ecosystem services and forms a natural laboratory along various physiographic, geological and evolutionary history/biogeography, and land use history gradients. •Aims: Here, we review existing empirical understanding and model-based approaches to quantify the contribution of mountain ecosystems to ecosystem service provision in the rapidly changing socioecological setting of the South American mountains. The objective of this paper is to outline a broad road map for the implementation of mountain vegetation into dynamic global vegetation models (DGVM) for use in Earth System Models (ESM), based on our current understanding of their structure and function and of their responsiveness to global change drivers. We also identify treeline processes, critical in mountain ecosystems, as key missing elements in DGVMs/ESMs, and thus explore in addition a treeline model. •Methods: Stocktaking of the availability of empirical data was undertaken from eight research sites along the Andes and in south-eastern Brazil. Out of eight sites, two (one each in Venezuela and Brazil) had some climate, ecological and ecophysiological data potentially suitable to parametrise a DGVM. Tree biomass data were available for six sites. A preliminary assessment of the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) DGVM was made to identify gaps in available data and their impacts on model parametrisation and calibration. Additionally, the potential climate-determined elevation of the treeline was modelled to check the DGVM for its ability to identify the transition between the montane forest and alpine vegetation. •Results: Outcomes of the evaluation of the JULES land surface model identified the following key processes in montane forests: temperature-related decrease in net primary production, respiration, and allocation to above-ground biomass and increase in soil C stocks with elevation. There was a variable agreement between simulated biomass and those derived from field measurements via allometric equations. •Conclusions: We identified major gaps between data availability and the needs for process-based modelling of South American mountain vegetation and its dynamics in DGVMs. To bridge this gap, we propose a transdisciplinary network, composed of members of the theoretical/modelling and empirical scientific communities, to study the natural dynamics of mountain ecosystems and their responses to global change drivers locally, regionally and at the continental scale, within a social-ecological system framework. The work presented here forms the basis for the design of data collection from field measurements and instrumental monitoring stations to parametrise and verify DGVMs. The network is designed to collaborate with and complement existing long-term research initiatives in the region and will adopt existing standard field protocols. Complementary protocols will ensure compatibility between field data collection and data needed for process-based and empirical models.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1755-0874
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: biodiversity, biogeochemical cycles, climate change, dynamic global vegetation and earth system models, ecosystem services, land use change, mountain ecosystem, social-ecological systems
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Ecology and Environment
Data and Information
Date made live: 07 Nov 2023 10:15 +0 (UTC)

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