The effect of using the plant functional type paradigm on a data-constrained global phenology model
- 1Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK
- anow at: Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany
Abstract. Leaf seasonality impacts a variety of important biological, chemical, and physical Earth system processes, which makes it essential to represent leaf phenology in ecosystem and climate models. However, we are still lacking a general, robust parametrisation of phenology at global scales. In this study, we use a simple process-based model, which describes phenology as a strategy for carbon optimality, to test the effects of the common simplification in global modelling studies that plant species within the same plant functional type (PFT) have the same parameter values, implying they are assumed to have the same species traits. In a previous study this model was shown to predict spatial and temporal dynamics of leaf area index (LAI) well across the entire global land surface provided local grid cell parameters were used, and is able to explain 96 % of the spatial variation in average LAI and 87 % of the variation in amplitude. In contrast, we find here that a PFT level parametrisation is unable to capture the spatial variability in seasonal cycles, explaining on average only 28 % of the spatial variation in mean leaf area index and 12 % of the variation in seasonal amplitude. However, we also show that allowing only two parameters, light compensation point and leaf age, to be spatially variable dramatically improves the model predictions, increasing the model's capability of explaining spatial variations in leaf seasonality to 70 and 57 % of the variation in LAI average and amplitude, respectively. This highlights the importance of identifying the spatial scale of variation of plant traits and the necessity to critically analyse the use of the plant functional type assumption in Earth system models.