Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Biogeosciences, 11, 2069–2082, 2014
Biogeosciences, 11, 2069–2082, 2014

Research article 11 Apr 2014

Research article | 11 Apr 2014

Monte Carlo-based calibration and uncertainty analysis of a coupled plant growth and hydrological model

T. Houska, S. Multsch, P. Kraft, H.-G. Frede, and L. Breuer T. Houska et al.
  • Institute for Landscape Ecology and Resources Management, Research Centre for BioSystems, Land Use and Nutrition (IFZ), Justus Liebig University Giessen, Giessen, Germany

Abstract. Computer simulations are widely used to support decision making and planning in the agriculture sector. On the one hand, many plant growth models use simplified hydrological processes and structures – for example, by the use of a small number of soil layers or by the application of simple water flow approaches. On the other hand, in many hydrological models plant growth processes are poorly represented. Hence, fully coupled models with a high degree of process representation would allow for a more detailed analysis of the dynamic behaviour of the soil–plant interface.

We coupled two of such high-process-oriented independent models and calibrated both models simultaneously. The catchment modelling framework (CMF) simulated soil hydrology based on the Richards equation and the van Genuchten–Mualem model of the soil hydraulic properties. CMF was coupled with the plant growth modelling framework (PMF), which predicts plant growth on the basis of radiation use efficiency, degree days, water shortage and dynamic root biomass allocation.

The Monte Carlo-based generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation (GLUE) method was applied to parameterize the coupled model and to investigate the related uncertainty of model predictions. Overall, 19 model parameters (4 for CMF and 15 for PMF) were analysed through 2 × 106 model runs randomly drawn from a uniform distribution.

The model was applied to three sites with different management in Müncheberg (Germany) for the simulation of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in a cross-validation experiment. Field observations for model evaluation included soil water content and the dry matter of roots, storages, stems and leaves. The shape parameter of the retention curve n was highly constrained, whereas other parameters of the retention curve showed a large equifinality. We attribute this slightly poorer model performance to missing leaf senescence, which is currently not implemented in PMF. The most constrained parameters for the plant growth model were the radiation-use efficiency and the base temperature. Cross validation helped to identify deficits in the model structure, pointing out the need for including agricultural management options in the coupled model.

Final-revised paper