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Modelling carbon sources and sinks in terrestrial vegetation

Fatichi, Simone, Pappas, Christoforos, Zscheischler, Jakob, Leuzinger, Sebastian
Thenew phytologist 2019 v.221 no.2 pp. 652-668
biosphere, carbon, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide fixation, carbon sinks, cell respiration, environmental science, forest inventory, models, net primary productivity, photosynthesis, prediction, vegetation
Contents Summary 652 I. Introduction 652 II. Discrepancy in predicting the effects of rising [CO₂] on the terrestrial C sink 655 III. Carbon and nutrient storage in plants and its modelling 656 IV. Modelling the source and the sink: a plant perspective 657 V. Plant‐scale water and Carbon flux models 660 VI. Challenges for the future 662 Acknowledgements 663 Authors contributions 663 References 663 SUMMARY: The increase in atmospheric CO₂ in the future is one of the most certain projections in environmental sciences. Understanding whether vegetation carbon assimilation, growth, and changes in vegetation carbon stocks are affected by higher atmospheric CO₂ and translating this understanding in mechanistic vegetation models is of utmost importance. This is highlighted by inconsistencies between global‐scale studies that attribute terrestrial carbon sinks to CO₂ stimulation of gross and net primary production on the one hand, and forest inventories, tree‐scale studies, and plant physiological evidence showing a much less pronounced CO₂ fertilization effect on the other hand. Here, we review how plant carbon sources and sinks are currently described in terrestrial biosphere models. We highlight an uneven representation of complexity between the modelling of photosynthesis and other processes, such as plant respiration, direct carbon sinks, and carbon allocation, largely driven by available observations. Despite a general lack of data on carbon sink dynamics to drive model improvements, ways forward toward a mechanistic representation of plant carbon sinks are discussed, leveraging on results obtained from plant‐scale models and on observations geared toward model developments.