Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
Model description paper
12 May 2014
Model description paper |  | 12 May 2014

Effects of vegetation structure on biomass accumulation in a Balanced Optimality Structure Vegetation Model (BOSVM v1.0)

Z. Yin, S. C. Dekker, B. J. J. M. van den Hurk, and H. A. Dijkstra

Abstract. A myriad of interactions exist between vegetation and local climate for arid and semi-arid regions. Vegetation function, structure and individual behavior have large impacts on carbon–water–energy balances, which consequently influence local climate variability that, in turn, feeds back to the vegetation. In this study, a conceptual vegetation structure scheme is formulated and tested in the new Balanced Optimality Structure Vegetation Model (BOSVM) to explore the importance of vegetation structure and vegetation adaptation to water stress on equilibrium biomass states. Surface energy, water and carbon fluxes are simulated for a range of vegetation structures across a precipitation gradient in West Africa and optimal vegetation structures that maximize biomass for each precipitation regime are determined. Two different strategies of vegetation adaptation to water stress are included. Under dry conditions vegetation tries to maximize the water use efficiency and leaf area index as it tries to maximize carbon gain. However, a negative feedback mechanism in the vegetation–soil water system is found as the vegetation also tries to minimize its cover to optimize the surrounding bare ground area from which water can be extracted, thereby forming patches of vertical vegetation. Under larger precipitation, a positive feedback mechanism is found in which vegetation tries to maximize its cover as it then can reduce water loss from bare soil while having maximum carbon gain due to a large leaf area index. The competition between vegetation and bare soil determines a transition between a "survival" state to a "growing" state.