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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Comparing Model Representations of Physiological Limits on Transpiration at a Semi-arid Ponderosa Pine Site

Hawkins, Linnia R.; Bassiouni, Maoya; Anderegg, William R. L.; Venturas, Martin D.; Good, Stephen P.; Kwon, Hyojung J.; Hanson, Chad V.; Fiorella, Richard P.; Bowen, Gabriel J.; Still, Christopher J.


Mechanistic representations of biogeochemical processes in ecosystem models are rapidly advancing, requiring advancements in model evaluation approaches. Here we quantify multiple aspects of model functional performance to evaluate improved process representations in ecosystem models. We compare semi-empirical stomatal models with hydraulic constraints against more mechanistic representations of stomatal and hydraulic functioning at a semi-arid pine site using a suite of metrics and analytical tools. We find that models generally perform similarly under unstressed conditions, but performance diverges under atmospheric and soil drought. The more empirical models better capture synergistic information flows between soil water potential and vapor pressure deficit to transpiration, while the more mechanistic models are overly deterministic. Although models can be parameterized to yield similar functional performance, alternate parameterizations could not overcome structural model constraints that underestimate the unique information contained in soil water potential about transpiration. Additionally, both multilayer canopy and big-leaf models were unable to capture the magnitude of canopy temperature divergence from air temperature, and we demonstrate that errors in leaf temperature can propagate to considerable error in simulated transpiration. This study demonstrates the value of merging underutilized observational data streams with emerging analytical tools to characterize ecosystem function and discriminate among model process representations.


plant hydraulics; ecosystem modeling; stomatal function; model evaluation; ponderosa pine; information theory

Published in

Journal of advances in modeling earth systems
2022, Volume: 14, number: 11, article number: e2021MS002927

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

    Publication identifier


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