Upscaling key ecosystem functions across the conterminous United States by a water-centric ecosystem model


We developed a water-centric monthly scale simulation model (WaSSI-C) by integrating empirical water and carbon flux measurements from the FLUXNET network and an existing water supply and demand accounting model (WaSSI). The WaSSI-C model was evaluated with basin-scale evapotranspiration (ET), gross ecosystem productivity (GEP), and net ecosystem exchange (NEE) estimates by multiple independent methods across 2103 eight-digit Hydrologic Unit Code watersheds in the conterminous United States from 2001 to 2006. Our results indicate that WaSSI-C captured the spatial and temporal variability and the effects of large droughts on key ecosystem fluxes. Our modeled mean (±standard deviation in space) ET (556 ± 228 mm yr-1) compared well to Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) based (527 ± 251 mm yr-1) and watershed water balance based ET (571 ± 242 mm yr-1). Our mean annual GEP estimates (1362 ± 688 g C m-2 yr-1) compared well (R2 = 0.83) to estimates (1194 ± 649 g C m-2 yr-1) by eddy flux-based EC-MOD model, but both methods led significantly higher (25–30%) values than the standard MODIS product (904 ± 467 g C m-2 yr-1). Among the 18 water resource regions, the southeast ranked the highest in terms of its water yield and carbon sequestration capacity. When all ecosystems were considered, the mean NEE (-353 ± 298 g C m-2 yr-1) predicted by this study was 60% higher than EC-MOD’s estimate (-220 ± 225 g C m-2 yr-1) in absolute magnitude, suggesting overall high uncertainty in quantifying NEE at a large scale. Our water-centric model offers a new tool for examining the trade-offs between regional water and carbon resources under a changing environment.

  • Citation: Sun, Ge; Caldwell, Peter; Noormets, Asko; McNulty, Steven G.; Cohen, Erika; et. al. 2011. Upscaling key ecosystem functions across the conterminous United States by a water-centric ecosystem model. Journal of Geophysical Research 116:G00J05.
  • Posted Date: August 15, 2011
  • Modified Date: August 15, 2011
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