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Estimating parameters of a forest ecosystem C model with measurements of stocks and fluxes as joint constraints

Abstract

We conducted an inverse modeling analysis, using a variety of data streams (tower-based eddy covariance measurements of net ecosystem exchange, NEE, of CO2, chamber-based measurements of soil respiration, and ancillary ecological measurements of leaf area index, litterfall, and woody biomass increment) to estimate parameters and initial carbon (C) stocks of a simple forest C-cycle model, DALEC, using Monte Carlo procedures. Our study site is the spruce-dominated Howland Forest AmeriFlux site, in central Maine, USA. Our analysis focuses on: (1) full characterization of data uncertainties, and treatment of these uncertainties in the parameter estimation; (2) evaluation of how combinations of different data streams influence posterior parameter distributions and model uncertainties; and (3) comparison of model performance (in terms of both predicted fluxes and pool dynamics) during a 4-year calibration period (1997–2000) and a 4-year validation period (“forward run”, 2001–2004). We find that woody biomass increment, and, to a lesser degree, soil respiration, measurements contribute to marked reductions in uncertainties in parameter estimates and model predictions as these provide orthogonal constraints to the tower NEE measurements. However, none of the data are effective at constraining fine root or soil C pool dynamics, suggesting that these should be targets for future measurement efforts. A key finding is that adding additional constraints not only reduces uncertainties (i.e., narrower confidence intervals) on model predictions, but at the same time also results in improved model predictions by greatly reducing bias associated with predictions during the forward run.

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Acknowledgments

Research at the Howland Forest was supported by the Office of Science (BER), US Department of Energy, through the Terrestrial Carbon Program under Interagency Agreement No. DE-AI02-07ER64355 and through the Northeastern Regional Center of the National Institute for Climatic Change Research. The Howland CO2 flux, climate, and ancillary ecological datasets are available at http://public.ornl.gov/ameriflux/Data/index.cfm subject to AmeriFlux “Fair-use” policies.

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Correspondence to Andrew D. Richardson.

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Communicated by Russell Monson.

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Richardson, A.D., Williams, M., Hollinger, D.Y. et al. Estimating parameters of a forest ecosystem C model with measurements of stocks and fluxes as joint constraints. Oecologia 164, 25–40 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-010-1628-y

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Keywords

  • Carbon cycle
  • Data-model fusion
  • Eddy covariance
  • Howland Forest
  • Inverse modeling
  • Parameter estimation
  • Uncertainty