North American Carbon Program (NACP) regional interim synthesis: Terrestrial biospheric model intercomparison

D. N. Huntzinger, W. M. Post, Y. Wei, A. M. Michalak, T. O. West, A. R. Jacobson, I. T. Baker, J. M. Chen, K. J. Davis, D. J. Hayes, F. M. Hoffman, A. K. Jain, S. Liu, A. D. McGuire, R. P. Neilson, Chris Potter, B. Poulter, David Price, B. M. Raczka, H. Q. TianP. Thornton, E. Tomelleri, N. Viovy, J. Xiao, W. Yuan, N. Zeng, M. Zhao, R. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Citations (SciVal)


Understanding of carbon exchange between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere can be improved through direct observations and experiments, as well as through modeling activities. Terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs) have become an integral tool for extrapolating local observations and understanding to much larger terrestrial regions. Although models vary in their specific goals and approaches, their central role within carbon cycle science is to provide a better understanding of the mechanisms currently controlling carbon exchange. Recently, the North American Carbon Program (NACP) organized several interim-synthesis activities to evaluate and inter-compare models and observations at local to continental scales for the years 2000-2005. Here, we compare the results from the TBMs collected as part of the regional and continental interim-synthesis (RCIS) activities. The primary objective of this work is to synthesize and compare the 19 participating TBMs to assess current understanding of the terrestrial carbon cycle in North America. Thus, the RCIS focuses on model simulations available from analyses that have been completed by ongoing NACP projects and other recently published studies. The TBM flux estimates are compared and evaluated over different spatial (1°×1° and spatially aggregated to different regions) and temporal (monthly and annually) scales. The range in model estimates of net ecosystem productivity (NEP) for North America is much narrower than estimates of productivity or respiration, with estimates of NEP varying between -0.7 and 2.2PgCyr -1, while gross primary productivity and heterotrophic respiration vary between 12.2 and 32.9PgCyr -1 and 5.6 and 13.2PgCyr -1, respectively. The range in estimates from the models appears to be driven by a combination of factors, including the representation of photosynthesis, the source and of environmental driver data and the temporal variability of those data, as well as whether nutrient limitation is considered in soil carbon decomposition. The disagreement in current estimates of carbon flux across North America, including whether North America is a net biospheric carbon source or sink, highlights the need for further analysis through the use of model runs following a common simulation protocol, in order to isolate the influences of model formulation, structure, and assumptions on flux estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-157
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Modelling
StatePublished - May 10 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling


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