Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Research article
10 Apr 2014
Research article |  | 10 Apr 2014

Implications of incorporating N cycling and N limitations on primary production in an individual-based dynamic vegetation model

B. Smith, D. Wårlind, A. Arneth, T. Hickler, P. Leadley, J. Siltberg, and S. Zaehle

Abstract. The LPJ-GUESS dynamic vegetation model uniquely combines an individual- and patch-based representation of vegetation dynamics with ecosystem biogeochemical cycling from regional to global scales. We present an updated version that includes plant and soil N dynamics, analysing the implications of accounting for C–N interactions on predictions and performance of the model. Stand structural dynamics and allometric scaling of tree growth suggested by global databases of forest stand structure and development were well reproduced by the model in comparison to an earlier multi-model study. Accounting for N cycle dynamics improved the goodness of fit for broadleaved forests. N limitation associated with low N-mineralisation rates reduces productivity of cold-climate and dry-climate ecosystems relative to mesic temperate and tropical ecosystems. In a model experiment emulating free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) treatment for forests globally, N limitation associated with low N-mineralisation rates of colder soils reduces CO2 enhancement of net primary production (NPP) for boreal forests, while some temperate and tropical forests exhibit increased NPP enhancement. Under a business-as-usual future climate and emissions scenario, ecosystem C storage globally was projected to increase by ca. 10%; additional N requirements to match this increasing ecosystem C were within the high N supply limit estimated on stoichiometric grounds in an earlier study. Our results highlight the importance of accounting for C–N interactions in studies of global terrestrial N cycling, and as a basis for understanding mechanisms on local scales and in different regional contexts.

Final-revised paper