There’s no such thing as “The Tropical Rainforest”: incorporating heterogeneity of tropical forests in a global vegetation model

01 January 2019 → Ongoing
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Community ecology
    • Ecophysiology and ecomorphology
    • Global ecology
    • Terrestrial ecology
vegetation model
Project description

Tropical forests are an essential component of the earth system and play a critical role for land
surface feedbacks to climate change. Uncertainty in the magnitude of the role of these forests on
the global carbon cycle is driven by the high spatial heterogeneity of tropical forests, with varying
carbon dynamics, forest structure and species composition. Within this project, we hypothesize that
by failing to capture this spatial heterogeneity of tropical forests in dynamic global vegetation
models, model projections on pantropical carbon dynamics will remain unreliable.
We therefore aim to introduce a better model structure and parameterization for tropical forests in
the vegetation model ED (Ecosystem Demography model). Specifically, we will introduce innovative
continent-specific tropical forest plant functional type (PFT) parameterizations making use of recent
datasets on plant traits, forest structure and allometry. Moreover, for several processes and plant
traits (including allocation, biomass residence time, leaf nutrient stoichiometry) we will introduce
dependency on environmental conditions. Furthermore, large differences in rainfall seasonality
across continents drives seasonality in net primary productivity, and it will be investigated if this
seasonality is reliably captured by the model. By incorporating tropical heterogeneity at these
different levels, we aim to improve simulations of pantropical forest biomass stocks and carbon