Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
Earth Syst. Dynam., 7, 649–658, 2016
Earth Syst. Dynam., 7, 649–658, 2016

Research article 29 Jul 2016

Research article | 29 Jul 2016

Divergent predictions of carbon storage between two global land models: attribution of the causes through traceability analysis

Rashid Rafique1,2, Jianyang Xia1,5, Oleksandra Hararuk1,3, Ghassem R. Asrar2, Guoyong Leng2, Yingping Wang4, and Yiqi Luo1 Rashid Rafique et al.
  • 1Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA
  • 2Joint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Lab, College Park, MD, USA
  • 3Pacific Forestry Centre, Victoria, BC, Canada
  • 4CSIRO Ocean and Atmosphere Flagship, PMB 1, Aspendale, Victoria 3195, Australia
  • 5School of Ecological and Environmental Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China

Abstract. Representations of the terrestrial carbon cycle in land models are becoming increasingly complex. It is crucial to develop approaches for critical assessment of the complex model properties in order to understand key factors contributing to models' performance. In this study, we applied a traceability analysis which decomposes carbon cycle models into traceable components, for two global land models (CABLE and CLM-CASA′) to diagnose the causes of their differences in simulating ecosystem carbon storage capacity. Driven with similar forcing data, CLM-CASA′ predicted  ∼ 31 % larger carbon storage capacity than CABLE. Since ecosystem carbon storage capacity is a product of net primary productivity (NPP) and ecosystem residence time (τE), the predicted difference in the storage capacity between the two models results from differences in either NPP or τE or both. Our analysis showed that CLM-CASA′ simulated 37 % higher NPP than CABLE. On the other hand, τE, which was a function of the baseline carbon residence time (τE) and environmental effect on carbon residence time, was on average 11 years longer in CABLE than CLM-CASA′. This difference in τE was mainly caused by longer τE of woody biomass (23 vs. 14 years in CLM-CASA′), and higher proportion of NPP allocated to woody biomass (23 vs. 16 %). Differences in environmental effects on carbon residence times had smaller influences on differences in ecosystem carbon storage capacities compared to differences in NPP and τE. Overall, the traceability analysis showed that the major causes of different carbon storage estimations were found to be parameters setting related to carbon input and baseline carbon residence times between two models.

Short summary
Traceability analysis was used to diagnose the causes of differences in simulating ecosystem carbon storage capacity between two land models: CLMA-CASA and CABLE. Results showed that the simulated ecosystem carbon storage capacity is largely influenced by the photosynthesis parameterization, residence time and organic matter decomposition.
Final-revised paper