Underestimation of Global Photosynthesis in Earth System Models Due to Representation of Vegetation Structure Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractThe impact of vegetation structure on the absorption of shortwave radiation in Earth System Models (ESMs) is potentially important for accurate modeling of the carbon cycle and hence climate projections. A proportion of incident shortwave radiation is used by plants to photosynthesize and canopy structure has a direct impact on the fraction of this radiation which is absorbed. This paper evaluates how modeled carbon assimilation of the terrestrial biosphere is impacted when clumping derived from satellite data is incorporated. We evaluated impacts of clumping on photosynthesis using the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator, the land surface scheme of the UK Earth System Model. At the global level, Gross Primary Productivity (GPP) increased by 5.53 ± 1.02 PgC/year with the strongest absolute increase in the tropics. This is contrary to previous studies that have shown a decrease in photosynthesis when similar clumping data sets have been used to modify light interception in models. In our study additional transmission of light through upper canopy layers leads to enhanced absorption in lower layers in which photosynthesis tends to be light limited. We show that this result is related to the complexity of canopy scheme being used.


  • Braghiere, RK
  • Quaife, T
  • Black, E
  • He, L
  • Chen, Jing

publication date

  • November 2019