Comparison of modeling approaches for carbon partitioning: Impact on estimates of global net primary production and equilibrium biomass of woody vegetation from MODIS GPP
Partitioning of gross primary production (GPP) to aboveground versus belowground, to growth versus respiration, and to short versus long-lived tissues exerts a strong influence on ecosystem structure and function, with potentially large implications for the global carbon budget. A recent meta-analysis of forest ecosystems suggests that carbon partitioning to leaves, stems, and roots varies consistently with GPP and that the ratio of net primary production (NPP) to GPP is conservative across environmental gradients. To examine influences of carbon partitioning schemes employed by global ecosystem models, we used this meta-analysis-based model and a satellite-based (MODIS) terrestrial GPP data set to estimate global woody NPP and equilibrium biomass, and then compared it to two process-based ecosystem models (Biome-BGC and VISIT) using the same GPP data set. We hypothesized that different carbon partitioning schemes would result in large differences in global estimates of woody NPP and equilibrium biomass. Woody NPP estimated by Biome-BGC and VISIT was 25% and 29% higher than the meta-analysis-based model for boreal forests, with smaller differences in temperate and tropics. Global equilibrium woody biomass, calculated from model-specific NPP estimates and a single set of tissue turnover rates, was 48 and 226 Pg C higher for Biome-BGC and VISIT compared to the meta-analysis-based model, reflecting differences in carbon partitioning to structural versus metabolically active tissues. In summary, we found that different carbon partitioning schemes resulted in large variations in estimates of global woody carbon flux and storage, indicating that stand-level controls on carbon partitioning are not yet accurately represented in ecosystem models.