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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

Modelling soil carbon development in Swedish coniferous forest soils-An uncertainty analysis of parameters and model estimates using the GLUE method

Ortiz, Carina; Karltun, Erik; Stendahl, Johan; Gärdenäs, Annemieke; Ågren, Göran


Boreal forest soils such as those in Sweden contain a large active carbon stock. Hence, a relatively small change in this stock can have a major impact on the Swedish national CO(2) balance. Understanding of the uncertainties in the estimations of soil carbon pools is critical for accurately assessing changes in carbon stocks in the national reports to UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. Our objective was to analyse the parameter uncertainties of simulated estimates of the soil organic carbon (SOC) development between 1994 and 2002 in Swedish coniferous forests with the Q model. Both the sensitivity of model parameters and the uncertainties in simulations were assessed. Data of forests with Norway spruce, Scots pine and Lodgepole pine, from the Swedish Forest Soil Inventory (SFSI) were used. Data of 12 Swedish counties were used to calibrate parameter settings: and data from another 11 counties to validate. The "limits of acceptability" within GLUE were set at the 95% confidence interval for the annual, mean measured SOC at county scale. The calibration procedure reduced the parameter uncertainties and reshaped the distributions of the parameters county-specific. The average measured and simulated SOC amounts varied from 60 t C ha(-1) in northern to 140 t C ha(-1) in the southern Sweden. The calibrated model simulated the soil carbon pool within the limits of acceptability for all calibration counties except for one county during one year. The efficiency of the calibrated model varied strongly; for five out of 12 counties the model estimates agreed well with measurements, for two counties agreement was moderate and for five counties the agreement was poor. The lack of agreement can be explained with the high interannual variability of the down-scaled measured SOC estimates and changes in forest areas over time. We conclude that, although we succeed in reducing the uncertainty in the model estimates, calibrating of a regional scale process-oriented model using a national scale dataset is a sensitive balance between introducing and reducing uncertainties. Parameter distributions showed to be scale sensitive and county specific. Further analysis of uncertainties in the methods used for reporting SOC changes to the UNFCCC and Kyoto protocol is recommended. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


GLUE; Soil carbon; Monte Carlo; Swedish Forest Soil Inventory; Scots pine; Norway spruce; Q-model; Uncertainties; UNFCCC; Kyoto; Limits of acceptability

Published in

Ecological Modelling
2011, Volume: 222, number: 17, pages: 3020-3032