Evaluating simulated functional trait patterns and quantifying modelled trait diversity effects on simulated ecosystem fluxes

Friday, 19 December 2014
Ryan Pavlick and David Schimel, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs) typically employ only a small set of Plant Functional Types (PFTs) to represent the vast diversity of observed vegetation forms and functioning. There is growing evidence, however, that this abstraction may not adequately represent the observed variation in plant functional traits, which is thought to play an important role for many ecosystem functions and for ecosystem resilience to environmental change. The geographic distribution of PFTs in these models is also often based on empirical relationships between present-day climate and vegetation patterns. Projections of future climate change, however, point toward the possibility of novel regional climates, which could lead to no-analog vegetation compositions incompatible with the PFT paradigm.

Here, we present results from the Jena Diversity-DGVM (JeDi-DGVM), a novel traits-based vegetation model, which simulates a large number of hypothetical plant growth strategies constrained by functional tradeoffs, thereby allowing for a more flexible temporal and spatial representation of the terrestrial biosphere.

First, we compare simulated present-day geographical patterns of functional traits with empirical trait observations (in-situ and from airborne imaging spectroscopy). The observed trait patterns are then used to improve the tradeoff parameterizations of JeDi-DGVM. Finally, focusing primarily on the simulated leaf traits, we run the model with various amounts of trait diversity. We quantify the effects of these modeled biodiversity manipulations on simulated ecosystem fluxes and stocks for both present-day conditions and transient climate change scenarios. The simulation results reveal that the coarse treatment of plant functional traits by current PFT-based vegetation models may contribute substantial uncertainty regarding carbon-climate feedbacks. Further development of trait-based models and further investment in global in-situ and spectroscopic plant trait observations are needed.