Dynamic vegetation models are useful tools for analysing terrestrial ecosystem processes and their interactions with climate through variations in carbon and water exchange. Long-term changes in structure and composition (vegetation dynamics) caused by altered competitive strength between plant functional types (PFTs) are attracting increasing attention as controls on ecosystem functioning and potential feedbacks to climate. Imperfect process knowledge and limited observational data restrict the possibility to parameterise these processes adequately and potentially contribute to uncertainty in model results. This study addresses uncertainty among parameters scaling vegetation dynamic processes in a process-based ecosystem model, LPJ-GUESS, designed for regional-scale studies, with the objective to assess the extent to which this uncertainty propagates to additional uncertainty in the tree community structure (in terms of the tree functional types present and their relative abundance) and thus to ecosystem functioning (carbon storage and fluxes). The results clearly indicate that the uncertainties in parameterisation can lead to a shift in competitive balance, most strikingly among deciduous tree PFTs, with dominance of either shade-tolerant or shade-intolerant PFTs being possible, depending on the choice of plausible parameter values. Despite this uncertainty, our results indicate that the resulting effect on ecosystem functioning is low. Since the vegetation dynamics in LPJ-GUESS are representative for the more complex Earth system models now being applied within ecosystem and climate research, we assume that our findings will be of general relevance. We suggest that, in terms of carbon storage and fluxes, the heavier parameterisation requirement of the processes involved does not widen the overall uncertainty in model predictions.
Ecological Modelling – Elsevier
Published: Sep 10, 2008
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