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Plant Nitrogen Uptake in Terrestrial Biogeochemical Models

Marti Donati, A., Cox, P.M., Smith, M.J., Purves, D., Sitch, S., Jones, and C.D.


Most terrestrial biogeochemical models featured in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) Assessment Report highlight the importance of the terrestrial Carbon sequestration and feedbacks between the terrestrial Carbon cycle and the climate system. However, these models have been criticized for overestimating predicted Carbon sequestration and its potential climate feedback when calculating the rate of future climate change because they do not account for the Carbon sequestration constraints caused by nutrient limitation, particularly Nitrogen (N). This is particularly relevant considering the existence of a substantial deficit of Nitrogen for plants in most areas of the world. To date, most climate models assume that plants have access to as much Nitrogen as needed, but ignore the nutrient requirements for new vegetation growth. Determining the natural demand and acquisition for Nitrogen and its associated resource optimization is key when accounting for the Carbon sequestration constrains caused by nutrient limitation. The few climate models that include C-N dynamics have illustrated that the stimulation of plant growth over the coming century may be significantly smaller than previously predicted. However, models exhibit wide differences in their predictive accuracy and lead to widely diverging and inconsistent projections accounting for an uncertain Carbon sequestration decrease due to Nitrogen limitation ranging from 7 to 64%. This reduction in growth is partially offset by an increase in the availability of nutrients resulting from an accelerated rate of decomposition of dead plants and other organic matter that occurring with a rise in temperature. However, this offset does not counterbalance the reduced level of plant growth calculated by natural nutrient limitations. Additionally, Nitrogen limitation is also expected to become more pronounced in some ecosystems as atmospheric CO2 concentration increases; resulting in less new growth and higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations than originally expected. This study compares the differences in the predictions of alternative models of plant N uptake found in different terrestrial biogeochemical models with the predictions from a new N-uptake model developed under the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) framework. We implement a methodology for the construction, parameterization and evaluation of N uptake models to fully decompose all the N uptake component processes in terms of their parameter uncertainty and the accuracy of their predictions with respect to different empirical data sets. Acknowledgements This work has been funded by the European Commission FP7-PEOPLE-ITN-2008 Marie Curie Action: "Greencycles II: FP7-PEOPLE-ITN-2008 Marie Curie Action: "Networks for Initial Training"


Publication typeMiscellaneous
Book titlePoster at 2013 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 9-13 Dec.
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
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