The use of forest stand age information in an atmospheric CO2 inversion applied to North America
Abstract. Atmospheric inversions have become an important tool in quantifying carbon dioxide (CO2) sinks and sources at a variety of spatiotemporal scales, but associated large uncertainties restrain the inversion research community from reaching agreement on many important subjects. We enhanced an atmospheric inversion of the CO2 flux for North America by introducing spatially explicit information on forest stand age for US and Canada as an additional constraint, since forest carbon dynamics are closely related to time since disturbance. To use stand age information in the inversion, we converted stand age into an age factor, and included the covariances between subcontinental regions in the inversion based on the similarity of the age factors. Our inversion results show that, considering age factors, regions with recently disturbed or old forests are often nudged towards carbon sources, while regions with middle-aged productive forests are shifted towards sinks. This conforms to stand age effects observed in flux networks. At the subcontinental level, our inverted carbon fluxes agree well with continuous estimates of net ecosystem carbon exchange (NEE) upscaled from eddy covariance flux data based on MODIS data. Inverted fluxes with the age constraint exhibit stronger correlation to these upscaled NEE estimates than those inverted without the age constraint. While the carbon flux at the continental and subcontinental scales is predominantly determined by atmospheric CO2 observations, the age constraint is shown to have potential to improve the inversion of the carbon flux distribution among subcontinental regions, especially for regions lacking atmospheric CO2 observations.