SOMPROF: A vertically explicit soil organic matter model

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Most current soil organic matter (SOM) models represent the soil as a bulk without specification of the vertical distribution of SOM in the soil profile. However, the vertical SOM profile may be of great importance for soil carbon cycling, both on short (hours to years) time scale, due to interactions with the soil temperature and moisture profile, as well as on long (years to centuries) time scale because of depth-specific stabilization mechanisms of organic matter. It is likely that a representation of the SOM profile and surface organic layers in SOM models can improve predictions of the response of land surface fluxes to climate and environmental variability. Although models capable of simulating the vertical SOM profile exist, these were generally not developed for large scale predictive simulations and do not adequately represent surface organic horizons. We present SOMPROF, a vertically explicit SOM model, designed for implementation into large scale ecosystem and land surface models. The model dynamically simulates the vertical SOM profile and organic layer stocks based on mechanistic representations of bioturbation, liquid phase transport of organic matter, and vertical distribution of root litter input. We tested the model based on data from an old growth deciduous forest (Hainich) in Germany, and performed a sensitivity analysis of the transport parameters, and the effects of the vertical SOM distribution on temporal variation of heterotrophic respiration. Model results compare well with measured organic carbon profiles and stocks. SOMPROF is able to simulate a wide range of SOM profiles, using parameter values that are realistic compared to those found in previous studies. Results of the sensitivity analysis show that the vertical SOM distribution strongly affects temporal variation of heterotrophic respiration due to interactions with the soil temperature and moisture profile.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1712-1730
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • temperature sensitivity
  • carbon dynamics
  • atmospheric co2
  • climate-change
  • forest soils
  • elevated co2
  • turnover
  • respiration
  • transport
  • decomposition


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  • ESS-CC

    Project: Other

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