Process-based analysis of terrestrial carbon flux predictability

Dunkl, István; Spring, Aaron; Friedlingstein, Pierre; Brovkin, Victor

Despite efforts to decrease the discrepancy between simulated and observed terrestrial carbon fluxes, the uncertainty in trends and patterns of the land carbon fluxes remains high. This difficulty raises the question of the extent to which the terrestrial carbon cycle is predictable and which processes explain the predictability. Here, the perfect model approach is used to assess the potential predictability of net primary production (NPPpred) and heterotrophic respiration (Rhpred) by using ensemble simulations conducted with the Max Planck Institute Earth system model. In order to assess the role of local carbon flux predictability (CFpred) in the predictability of the global carbon cycle, we suggest a new predictability metric weighted by the amplitude of the flux anomalies. Regression analysis is used to determine the contribution of the predictability of different environmental drivers to NPPpred and Rhpred (soil moisture, air temperature, and radiation for NPP, and soil organic carbon, air temperature, and precipitation for Rh). Global NPPpred is driven to 62 % and 30 % by the predictability of soil moisture and temperature, respectively. Global Rhpred is driven to 52 % and 27 % by the predictability of soil organic carbon and temperature, respectively. The decomposition of predictability shows that the relatively high Rhpred compared to NPPpred is due to the generally high predictability of soil organic carbon. The seasonality in NPPpred and Rhpred patterns can be explained by the change in limiting factors over the wet and dry months. Consequently, CFpred is controlled by the predictability of the currently limiting environmental factor. Differences in CFpred between ensemble simulations can be attributed to the occurrence of wet and dry years, which influences the predictability of soil moisture and temperature. This variability of predictability is caused by the state dependency of ecosystem processes. Our results reveal the crucial regions and ecosystem processes to be considered when initializing a carbon prediction system.

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Dunkl, István / Spring, Aaron / Friedlingstein, Pierre / et al: Process-based analysis of terrestrial carbon flux predictability. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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