Articles | Volume 11, issue 1
Model description paper
30 Jan 2018
Model description paper |  | 30 Jan 2018

Representing anthropogenic gross land use change, wood harvest, and forest age dynamics in a global vegetation model ORCHIDEE-MICT v8.4.2

Chao Yue, Philippe Ciais, Sebastiaan Luyssaert, Wei Li, Matthew J. McGrath, Jinfeng Chang, and Shushi Peng

Abstract. Land use change (LUC) is among the main anthropogenic disturbances in the global carbon cycle. Here we present the model developments in a global dynamic vegetation model ORCHIDEE-MICT v8.4.2 for a more realistic representation of LUC processes. First, we included gross land use change (primarily shifting cultivation) and forest wood harvest in addition to net land use change. Second, we included sub-grid evenly aged land cohorts to represent secondary forests and to keep track of the transient stage of agricultural lands since LUC. Combination of these two features allows the simulation of shifting cultivation with a rotation length involving mainly secondary forests instead of primary ones. Furthermore, a set of decision rules regarding the land cohorts to be targeted in different LUC processes have been implemented. Idealized site-scale simulation has been performed for miombo woodlands in southern Africa assuming an annual land turnover rate of 5 % grid cell area between forest and cropland. The result shows that the model can correctly represent forest recovery and cohort aging arising from agricultural abandonment. Such a land turnover process, even though without a net change in land cover, yields carbon emissions largely due to the imbalance between the fast release from forest clearing and the slow uptake from agricultural abandonment. The simulation with sub-grid land cohorts gives lower emissions than without, mainly because the cleared secondary forests have a lower biomass carbon stock than the mature forests that are otherwise cleared when sub-grid land cohorts are not considered. Over the region of southern Africa, the model is able to account for changes in different forest cohort areas along with the historical changes in different LUC activities, including regrowth of old forests when LUC area decreases. Our developments provide possibilities to account for continental or global forest demographic change resulting from past anthropogenic and natural disturbances.

Short summary
Human alteration of land cover has caused CO2 that is stored in forest biomass and soil to be released into the atmosphere and thus contribute to global warming. Global vegetation models that are used to quantify such carbon emissions from land use change traditionally rarely include shifting cultivation and secondary forest age dynamics. In this study, we expanded one vegetation model to include these features. We found that carbon emissions from land use change are estimated to be smaller.