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Publication Date
1 June 2024

Feasibility of Formulating Ecosystem Biogeochemical Models From Established Physical Rules



To improve the predictive capability of ecosystem biogeochemical models (EBMs), we discuss the feasibility of formulating biogeochemical processes using physical rules that have underpinned the many successes in computational physics and chemistry. We argue that the currently popular empirically based approaches, such as multiplicative empirical response functions and the law of the minimum, will not lead to EBM formulations that can be continuously refined to incorporate improved mechanistic understanding and empirical observations of biogeochemical processes. Instead, we propose that EBM parameterizations, as a lossy data compression problem, can be better formulated using established physical rules widely used in computational physics and chemistry, and different biogeochemical processes can be more robustly integrated within a reactive‐transport framework. Through several examples, we demonstrate how mathematical representations derived from physical rules can improve understanding of relevant biogeochemical processes and enable more effective communication between modelers, observationalists, and experimentalists regarding essential questions, such as what measurements are needed to meaningfully inform models and how can models generate new process‐level hypotheses to test in empirical studies. Finally, while empirical models with more parameters are often less robust, physical rules‐based models can be more robust and show lower predictive equifinality, stemming from their enhanced consistency in representations of processes, interactions and spatial scaling.

Tang, Jinyun, William J. Riley, Stefano Manzoni, and Federico Maggi. 2024. “Feasibility Of Formulating Ecosystem Biogeochemical Models From Established Physical Rules”. Journal Of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 129 (6). American Geophysical Union (AGU). doi:10.1029/2023jg007674.
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