Original Papers


, Volume 92, Issue 4, pp 463-474

First online:

A generalized, lumped-parameter model of photosynthesis, evapotranspiration and net primary production in temperate and boreal forest ecosystems

  • John D. AberAffiliated withInstitute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire
  • , C. Anthony FedererAffiliated withNortheastern Forest Experiment Station, U.S.D.A. Forest Service

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PnET is a simple, lumped-parameter, monthlytime-step model of carbon and water balances of forests built on two principal relationships: 1) maximum photosynthetic rate is a function of foliar nitrogen concentration, and 2) stomatal conductance is a function of realized photosynthetic rate. Monthyly leaf area display and carbon and water balances are predicted by combining these with standard equations describing light attenuation in canopies and photosynthetic response to diminishing radiation intensity, along with effects of soil water stress and vapor pressure deficit (VPD). PnET has been validated against field data from 10 well-studied temperate and boreal forest ecosystems, supporting our central hypothesis that aggregation of climatic data to the monthly scale and biological data such as foliar characteristics to the ecosystem level does not cause a significant loss of information relative to long-term, mean ecosystem responses. Sensitivity analyses reveal a diversity of responses among systems to identical alterations in climatic drivers. This suggests that great care should be used in developing generalizations as to how forests will respond to a changing climate. Also critical is the degree to which the temperature responses of photosynthesis and respiration might acclimate to changes in mean temperatures at decadal time scales. An extreme climate change simulation (+3° C maximum temperature, −25% precipitation with no change in minimum temperature or radiation, direct effects of increased atmospheric CO2 ignored) suggests that major increases in water stress, and reductions in biomass production (net carbon gain) and water yield would follow such a change.

Key words

Conductance Foliar nitrogen Water balance LAI