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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2020-258
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2020-258
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: development and technical paper 22 Sep 2020

Submitted as: development and technical paper | 22 Sep 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal GMD.

Ecosystem age-class dynamics and distribution in the LPJ-wsl v2.0 global ecosystem model

Leonardo Calle1,2 and Benjamin Poulter3 Leonardo Calle and Benjamin Poulter
  • 1University of Montana, Department of Forest Management, WA Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, Missoula, MT 59812
  • 2Montana State University, Department of Ecology, Bozeman, Montana 59717, USA
  • 3NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Biospheric Science Laboratory, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

Abstract. Forest ecosystem processes follow classic responses with age, peaking production around canopy closure and declin-ing thereafter. Although age dynamics might be more dominant in certain regions over others, demographic effects on net primary production (NPP) and heterotrophic respiration (Rh) are bound to exist. Yet, explicit representation of ecosystem demography is notably absent in most global ecosystem models. This is concerning because the glob-al community relies on these models to regularly update our collective understanding of the global carbon cycle. This paper aims to fill this gap in understanding by presenting the technical developments of a computationally-efficient approach for representing age-class dynamics within a global ecosystem model, the LPJ-wsl v2.0 Dynamic Global Vegetation Model. The modeled age-classes are initially created by fire feedbacks, wood harvesting, and abandonment of managed land, otherwise aging naturally until a stand-clearing disturbance is simulated or pre-scribed. In this paper, we show that the age-module can capture classic demographic patterns in stem density and tree height compared to inventory data, and that patterns of ecosystem function follow classic responses with age. We also present a few scientific applications of the model to assess the modeled age-class distribution over time and to determine the demographic effect on ecosystem fluxes relative to climate. Simulations show that, between 1860 and 2016, zonal age distribution on Earth was driven predominately by fire, causing a ~ 45-year difference in ages between boreal (50N–90N) and tropical (23S–23N) latitudes. Land use change and land management was responsible for an additional decrease in zonal age by −6 years in boreal and by −21 years in temperate (23N–50N) and tropical latitudes, with the anthropogenic effect on zonal age distribution increasing over time. A statistical model helped reduced LPJ-wsl complexity by predicting per-grid-cell annual NPP and Rh fluxes by three terms: precipitation, temperature and age-class; at global scales, R2 was between 0.95 and 0.98. As determined by the statistical model, the demographic effect on ecosystem function was often less than 0.10 kg C m−2 yr−1 but as high as 0.60 kg C m−2 yr−1 where the effect was greatest. In eastern forests of North America, the demographic effect was of similar magni-tude, or greater than, the effects of climate; demographic effects were similarly important in large regions of every vegetated continent. Spatial datasets are provided for global ecosystem ages and the estimated coefficients for effects of precipitation, temperature and demography on ecosystem function. The discussion focuses on our finding of an increasing role of demography in the global carbon cycle, the effect of demography on relaxation times (resilience) following a disturbance event and its implications at global scales, and a finding of a 40-Pg C increase in turnover from age dynamics at global scales. Whereas time is the only mechanism that increases ecosystem age, any addi-tional disturbance not explicitly modeled will decrease age. This LPJ-based age-module therefore simulates the up-per limit of age-class distributions on Earth and represents another step forward towards understanding the role of demography in global ecosystems.

Leonardo Calle and Benjamin Poulter

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Status: open (until 17 Nov 2020)
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Leonardo Calle and Benjamin Poulter

Data sets

VTFT_Demography: global ageclass simulation data from the LPJ-wsl v2.0 Dynamic Global Vegetation Model Leonardo Calle https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.k6djh9w4x

Model code and software

VTFT_Demography: global ageclass simulation data from the LPJ-wsl v2.0 Dynamic Global Vegetation Model Leonardo Calle https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.k6djh9w4x

Leonardo Calle and Benjamin Poulter

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Short summary
We developed a model to simulate and track the age of ecosystems on Earth. We found that the effect of ecosystem age on net primary production and ecosystem respiration is as important as climate in large areas of every vegetated continent. The LPJ-wsl v2.0 age-class model simulates the upper limit of age-class distributions on Earth and represents another step forward towards understanding the role of demography in global ecosystems.
We developed a model to simulate and track the age of ecosystems on Earth. We found that the...
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