14 Mar 2023
 | 14 Mar 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Ideas and perspectives: Beyond model evaluation – combining experiments and models to advance terrestrial ecosystem science

Silvia Caldararu, Victor Rolo, Benjamin D. Stocker, Teresa E. Gimeno, and Richard Nair

Abstract. Ecosystem manipulative experiments are one of the most powerful tools to understand terrestrial ecosystem responses to global change because they measure real responses in real ecosystems. However, their scope is limited in space and time due to cost and labour intensity. This makes generalising results from such experiments difficult, which creates a conceptual gap between local scale process understanding and global scale future predictions. Recent efforts have seen results from such experiments used in combination with dynamic global vegetation models, most commonly to evaluate model predictions under global change drivers. However, there is much more potential in combining models and experiments. Here, we discuss the value and potential of a workflow for using ecosystem experiments together with process-based models to enhance the potential of both. We suggest that models can be used prior to the start of an experiment to generate hypotheses, identify data needs and in general guide experimental design. Models, when adequately constrained with observations, can also predict variables which are difficult to measure frequently or at all, and together with the data can provide a more complete picture of ecosystem states. Finally, models can be used to help generalise the experimental results in space and time, by providing a framework in which process understanding derived from site-level experiments can be incorporated. We also discuss the potential for using manipulative experiments together with models in formalised model-data integration frameworks for parameter estimation and model selection, a path made possible by the increasing number of ecosystem experiments and diverse observation streams. The ideas presented here can provide a roadmap to future experiment - model studies.

Silvia Caldararu et al.

Status: open (until 25 Apr 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Silvia Caldararu et al.

Silvia Caldararu et al.


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Short summary
Ecosystem manipulative experiments are large experiments in real ecosystems. They include processes such as species interactions and weather which would be omitted in more controlled settings. They offer a high level of realism, but are underused in combination with vegetation models, used to predict the response of ecosystems to global change. We propose a workflow using models and ecosystem experiments together, taking advantage of the benefits of both tools for earth system understanding.