Feedbacks between vegetation and the soil nutrient cycle are important in ecosystems where nitrogen limits plant growth, and consequently influences the carbon balance in the plant-soil system. However, many biosphere models do not include such feedbacks, because interactions between carbon and the nitrogen cycle can be complex, and remain poorly understood. In this study we coupled a nitrogen cycle model with an eco-hydrological model by using the concept of carbon cost economics. This concept accounts for different “costs” to the plant of acquiring nitrogen via different pathways. This study builds on tRIBS-VEGGIE, a spatially explicit hydrological model coupled with a model of photosynthesis, stomatal resistance, and energy balance, by combining it with a model of nitrogen recycling. Driven by climate and spatially explicit data of soils, vegetation and topography, the model (referred to as tRIBS-VEGGIE-CN) simulates the dynamics of carbon and nitrogen in the soil-plant system; the dynamics of vegetation; and different components of the hydrological cycle. The tRIBS-VEGGIE-CN is applied in a humid tropical watershed at the Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory (LCZO). The region is characterized by high availability and cycling of nitrogen, high soil respiration rates, and large carbon stocks.
We drive the model under contemporary CO2 and hydro-climatic forcing and compare results to a simulation under doubling CO2 and a range of future climate scenarios. The results with parameterization of nitrogen limitation based on carbon cost economics show that the carbon cost of the acquisition of nitrogen is 14% of the net primary productivity (NPP) and the N uptake cost for different pathways vary over a large range depending on leaf nitrogen content, turnover rates of carbon in soil and nitrogen cycling processes. Moreover, the N fertilization simulation experiment shows that the application of N fertilizer does not significantly change the simulated NPP. Furthermore, an experiment with doubling of the CO2 concentration level shows a significant increase of the NPP and turnover of plant tissues. The simulation with future climate scenarios shows consistent decrease in NPP but the uncertainties in projected NPP arising from selection of climate model and scenario is large.
Bastola, Satish, and Rafael L Bras (2017): Parameterization of nitrogen limitation for a dynamic ecohydrological Model: A case study from the Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory. American Geophysical Union 2017 Fall Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, 11-15 December 2017.
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.