Articles | Volume 12, issue 11
Research article
05 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 05 Jun 2015

Modeling photosynthesis of discontinuous plant canopies by linking the Geometric Optical Radiative Transfer model with biochemical processes

Q. Xin, P. Gong, and W. Li

Abstract. Modeling vegetation photosynthesis is essential for understanding carbon exchanges between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. The radiative transfer process within plant canopies is one of the key drivers that regulate canopy photosynthesis. Most vegetation cover consists of discrete plant crowns, of which the physical observation departs from the underlying assumption of a homogenous and uniform medium in classic radiative transfer theory. Here we advance the Geometric Optical Radiative Transfer (GORT) model to simulate photosynthesis activities for discontinuous plant canopies. We separate radiation absorption into two components that are absorbed by sunlit and shaded leaves, and derive analytical solutions by integrating over the canopy layer. To model leaf-level and canopy-level photosynthesis, leaf light absorption is then linked to the biochemical process of gas diffusion through leaf stomata. The canopy gap probability derived from GORT differs from classic radiative transfer theory, especially when the leaf area index is high, due to leaf clumping effects. Tree characteristics such as tree density, crown shape, and canopy length affect leaf clumping and regulate radiation interception. Modeled gross primary production (GPP) for two deciduous forest stands could explain more than 80% of the variance of flux tower measurements at both near hourly and daily timescales. We demonstrate that ambient CO2 concentrations influence daytime vegetation photosynthesis, which needs to be considered in biogeochemical models. The proposed model is complementary to classic radiative transfer theory and shows promise in modeling the radiative transfer process and photosynthetic activities over discontinuous forest canopies.

Short summary
We advance the Geometric Optical Radiative Transfer model and derive analytical solutions to radiation absorption by sunlit/shaded leaves. We link the radiative transfer process with the biochemical diffusion process to model canopy photosynthesis. Modeled gross primary production could explain more than 80% variance of flux tower measurements at both hourly and daily scales.
Final-revised paper