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Title: Steady state estimation of soil organic carbon using satellite-derived canopy leaf area index

Soil organic carbon (SOC) plays a key role in the global carbon cycle that is important for decadal-to-century climate prediction. Estimation of soil organic carbon stock using model-based methods typically requires spin-up (time marching transient simulation) of the carbon-nitrogen (CN) models by performing hundreds to thousands years long simulations until the carbon-nitrogen pools reach dynamic steady-state. This has become a bottleneck for global modeling and analysis, especially when testing new physical and/or chemical mechanisms and evaluating parameter sensitivity. Here we report a new numerical approach to estimate global soil carbon stock that can avoid the long term spin-up of the CN model. The approach uses canopy leaf area index (LAI) from satellite data and takes advantage of a reaction-based biogeochemical module NGBGC (Next Generation BioGeoChemical Module) that was recently developed and incorporated in version 4 of the Community Land Model (CLM4). Although NGBGC uses the same CN mechanisms as used in CLM4CN, it can be easily configured to run prognostic or steady state simulations. In this approach, monthly LAI from the multi-year Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data was used to calculate potential annual average gross primary production (GPP) and leaf carbon for the period of the atmospheric forcing. Themore » calculated potential annual average GPP and leaf C are then used by NGBGC to calculate the steady-state distributions of carbon and nitrogen in different vegetation and soil pools by solving the steady-state reaction-network in NGBGC using the Newton-Raphson method. The new approach was applied at point and global scales and compared with SOC derived from long spin-up by running NGBGC in prognostic mode, and SOC from the empirical data of the Harmonized World Soil Database (HWSD). The steady-state solution is comparable to the spin-up value when the MODIS LAI is close to the LAI from the spin-up solution, and largely captured the variability of the HWSD SOC across the different dominant plant functional types (PFTs) at global scale. The numerical correlation between the calculated and HWSD SOC was, however, weak at both point and global scales, suggesting that the models used in describing biogeochemical processes in CLM needs improvements and/or HWSD needs updating as suggested by other studies. Besides SOC, the steady state solution also includes all other state variables simulated by a spin-up run, such as NPP, GPP, total vegetation C etc., which makes the developed approach a promising tool to efficiently estimate global SOC distribution and evaluate and compare different aspects simulated by different CN mechanisms in the model.« less
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Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 1942-2466
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 6; Journal Issue: 4; Journal ID: ISSN 1942-2466
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
OSTI Identifier: