Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
Geosci. Model Dev., 5, 919–940, 2012
Geosci. Model Dev., 5, 919–940, 2012

Model description paper 05 Jul 2012

Model description paper | 05 Jul 2012

MAESPA: a model to study interactions between water limitation, environmental drivers and vegetation function at tree and stand levels, with an example application to [CO2] × drought interactions

R. A. Duursma1 and B. E. Medlyn2 R. A. Duursma and B. E. Medlyn
  • 1Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
  • 2Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia

Abstract. Process-based models (PBMs) of vegetation function can be used to interpret and integrate experimental results. Water limitation to plant carbon uptake is a highly uncertain process in the context of environmental change, and many experiments have been carried out that study drought limitations to vegetation function at spatial scales from seedlings to entire canopies. What is lacking in the synthesis of these experiments is a quantitative tool incorporating a detailed mechanistic representation of the water balance that can be used to integrate and analyse experimental results at scales of both the whole-plant and the forest canopy. To fill this gap, we developed an individual tree-based model (MAESPA), largely based on combining the well-known MAESTRA and SPA ecosystem models. The model includes a hydraulically-based model of stomatal conductance, root water uptake routines, drainage, infiltration, runoff and canopy interception, as well as detailed radiation interception and leaf physiology routines from the MAESTRA model. The model can be applied both to single plants of arbitrary size and shape, as well as stands of trees. The utility of this model is demonstrated by studying the interaction between elevated [CO2] (eCa) and drought. Based on theory, this interaction is generally expected to be positive, so that plants growing in eCa should be less susceptible to drought. Experimental results, however, are varied. We apply the model to a previously published experiment on droughted cherry, and show that changes in plant parameters due to long-term growth at eCa (acclimation) may strongly affect the outcome of Ca × drought experiments. We discuss potential applications of MAESPA and some of the key uncertainties in process representation.