Analyzing the ecosystem carbon dynamics of four European coniferous forests using a biogeochemistry model

G. Churkina, J. Tenhunen, P. Thornton, E. Falge, J.A. Elbers, M. Erhard, T. Grünwald, A. Kowalski, Ü. Rannik, D. Sprinz

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This paper provides the first steps toward a regional-scale analysis of carbon (C) budgets. We explore the ability of the ecosystem model BIOME-BGC to estimate the daily and annual C dynamics of four European coniferous forests and shifts in these dynamics in response to changing environmental conditions. We estimate uncertainties in the model results that arise from incomplete knowledge of site management history (for example, successional stage of forest). These uncertainties are especially relevant in regional-scale simulations, because this type of information is difficult to obtain. Although the model predicted daily C and water fluxes reasonably well at all sites, it seemed to have a better predictive capacity for the photosynthesis-related processes than for respiration. Leaf area index (LAI) was modeled accurately at two sites but overestimated at two others (as a result of poor long-term climate drivers and uncertainties in model parameterization). The overestimation of LAI (and consequently gross photosynthetic production (GPP)), in combination with reasonable estimates of the daily net ecosystem productivity (NEP) of those forests, also illustrates the problem with modeled respiration. The model results suggest that all four European forests have been net sinks of C at the rate of 100-300 gC/m2/y and that this C sequestration capacity would be 30%-70% lower without increasing nitrogen (N) deposition and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. The magnitude of the forest responses was dependent not only on the rate of changes in environmental factors, but also on site-specific conditions such as climate and soil depth. We estimated that the modeled C exchange at the study sites was reduced by 50%-100% when model simulations were performed for climax forests rather than regrowing forests. The estimates of water fluxes were less sensitive to different initializations of state variables or environmental change scenarios than C fluxes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-184
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • time climate variability
  • daily solar-radiation
  • global change
  • gap models
  • terrestrial ecosystems
  • atmospheric transport
  • regional applications
  • deciduous forest
  • nitrogen budgets
  • satellite data

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    Churkina, G., Tenhunen, J., Thornton, P., Falge, E., Elbers, J. A., Erhard, M., Grünwald, T., Kowalski, A., Rannik, Ü., & Sprinz, D. (2003). Analyzing the ecosystem carbon dynamics of four European coniferous forests using a biogeochemistry model. Ecosystems, 6(2), 168-184.