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Simulating the Spatial Variation of Carbon Processes at a Critical Zone Observatory
Published: June 02, 2018
Posted: December 27, 2018

Development and testing of a spatially distributed land surface hydrologic biogeochemistry model with nitrogen transport.

The Science
A distributed land surface hydrologic biogeochemistry model with nitrogen transport processes is developed and tested at the Shale Hills watershed. The model is able to represent the spatial variations in terrestrial carbon processes and suggests that tree growth at the Shale Hills watershed is nitrogen limited.

The Impact
The coupled Flux-PIHM-BGC model provides an important tool to study spatial variations in terrestrial carbon and nitrogen processes and their interactions with environmental factors, and to predict the spatial structure of the responses of ecosystems to climate change.

A spatially distributed land surface hydrologic biogeochemical model with nitrogen transport, Flux-PIHM-BGC, has been developed by scientists at Pennsylvania State University by coupling a  one-dimensional (1D) mechanistic biogeochemical model, Biome-BGC (BBGC), with a spatially distributed land surface hydrologic model, Flux-PIHM, and adding an advection dominated nitrogen transport module. In the coupled Flux-PIHM-BGC model, each Flux-PIHM model grid couples a 1D BBGC model, while nitrogen is transported among model grids via surface and subsurface water flow. The coupled Flux-PIHM-BGC model has been implemented at the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory. The model-predicted aboveground vegetation carbon and soil carbon distributions generally agree with the macro patterns observed within the watershed, although the model underestimates the spatial variability. Model results suggest that the spatial pattern of aboveground carbon is controlled by the distribution of soil mineral nitrogen. A Flux-PIHM-BGC simulation without the nitrogen transport module is also executed. The model without nitrogen transport fails in predicting the spatial patterns of vegetation carbon, indicating the importance of having a nitrogen transport module in spatially distributed ecohydrologic modeling.

BER Program Manager
Daniel Stover
Terrestrial Ecosystem System, SC-23.1 (301-903-0289)

Principal Investigator
David Eissenstat
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania 16802 (814)863-3371

This work is supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, under Award Number DE-SC0012003, and facilitated by the National Science Foundation Critical Zone Observatory program grants to CJD (EAR 07- 25019) and SLB (EAR 12-39285 and EAR 13-31726).

Shi, Y., Eissenstat, D. M., He, Y., & Davis, D. J. “Using a spatially-distributed hydrologic biogeochemistry model with a nitrogen transport module to study the spatial variation of carbon processes in a Critical Zone Observatory.” Ecological Modelling 380, 8–21 (2018). [DOI:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2018.04.007].

Related Links
Link to the Flux-PIHM-BGC repository:


Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science

Division: SC-33 BER


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