Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

Observed Allocations of Productivity and Biomass, and Turnover Times in Tropical Forests are not Accurately Represented in CMIP5 Earth System Models

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 08:00 to 12:20
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A significant fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions is assimilated by tropical forests and stored as biomass, slowing the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. Because different plant tissues have different functional roles and turnover times, predictions of carbon balance of tropical forests depend on how earth system models (ESMs) represent the dynamic allocation of productivity to different tree compartments. This study shows that observed allocation of productivity, biomass, and turnover times of main tree compartments (leaves, wood, and roots) are not accurately represented in CMIP5 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5) ESMs. In particular, observations indicate that biomass saturates with increasing productivity. In contrast, most models predict continuous increases in biomass with increases in productivity. This bias may lead to an over-prediction of carbon uptake in response to CO2 or climate-driven changes in productivity. Compartment-specific productivity and biomass are useful benchmarks to assess terrestrial ecosystem model performance. Improvements in the predicted allocation patterns and turnover times by ESMs will reduce uncertainties in climate predictions.

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