U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Effects of Land Hydrology Representation on Plant Carbon Productivity
Published: August 01, 2014
Posted: October 03, 2014

A growing area of investigation in land and climate modeling is the linkage between land hydrology and terrestrial carbon systems. How soil moisture influences climate through interactions in the coupled water, energy, and carbon cycles is a key, but not well understood, challenge. A team of scientists, led by Department of Energy researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, studied how uncertainty associated with using two very different representations of soil hydrology affect model plant productivity and the carbon cycle. Using the Community Land Model (CLM) version 4 with two widely adopted runoff generation parameterizations, the team found that the global water balance is sensitive to runoff parameterizations, which caused a relative difference of about 35% in global mean total runoff and soil moisture, as well as substantial differences in their spatial distribution and seasonal variability. Consequently, the simulated global mean gross primary production differs by 20.4% as differences in soil moisture simulated between the two models directly influence leaf photosynthesis through soil moisture availability, and indirectly alter vegetation phenology through the impacts of soil moisture on soil temperature. The study highlights the significant interactions among the water, energy, and carbon cycles and the need for reducing uncertainty in the hydrologic parameterization of land surface models to better constrain carbon cycle modeling.

Reference: Lei, H., M. Huang, L. R. Leung, D. Yang, X. Shi, J. Mao, D. J. Hayes, C. R. Schwalm, Y. Wei, and S. Liu. 2014. “Sensitivity of Global Terrestrial Gross Primary Production to Hydrologic States Simulated by the Community Land Model Using Two Runoff Parameterizations,” Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, DOI:10.1002/2013MS000252. (Reference link)

Contact: Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)