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  1. As the Arctic region moves into uncharted territory under a warming climate, it is important to refine the terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs) that help us understand and predict change. One fundamental uncertainty in TBMs relates to model parameters, configuration variables internal to the model whose value can be estimated from data. We incorporate a version of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Model (TEM) developed for arctic ecosystems into the Predictive Ecosystem Analyzer (PEcAn) framework. PEcAn treats model parameters as probability distributions, estimates parameters based on a synthesis of available field data, and then quantifies both model sensitivity and uncertainty to a given parameter or suite of parameters. We examined how variation in 21 parameters in the equation for gross primary production influenced model sensitivity and uncertainty in terms of two carbon fluxes (net primary productivity and heterotrophic respiration) and two carbon (C) pools (vegetation C and soil C). We set up different parameterizations of TEM across a range of tundra types (tussock tundra, heath tundra, wet sedge tundra, and shrub tundra) in northern Alaska, along a latitudinal transect extending from the coastal plain near Utqiaġvik to the southern foothills of the Brooks Range, to the Seward Peninsula. TEM was most sensitive to parameters related to the temperature regulation of photosynthesis. Model uncertainty was mostly due to parameters related to leaf area, temperature regulation of photosynthesis, and the stomatal responses to ambient light conditions. Our analysis also showed that sensitivity and uncertainty to a given parameter varied spatially. At some sites, model sensitivity and uncertainty tended to be connected to a wider range of parameters, underlining the importance of assessing tundra community processes across environmental gradients or geographic locations. Generally, across sites, the flux of net primary productivity (NPP) and pool of vegetation C had about equal uncertainty, while heterotrophic respiration had higher uncertainty than the pool of soil C. Our study illustrates the complexity inherent in evaluating parameter uncertainty across highly heterogeneous arctic tundra plant communities. It also provides a framework for iteratively testing how newly collected field data related to key parameters may result in more effective forecasting of Arctic change. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. Canopy radiative transfer is the primary mechanism by which models relate vegetation composition and state to the surface energy balance, which is important to light- and temperature-sensitive plant processes as well as understanding land–atmosphere feedbacks.In addition, certain parameters (e.g., specific leaf area, SLA) that have an outsized influence on vegetation model behavior can be constrained by observations of shortwave reflectance, thus reducing model predictive uncertainty.Importantly, calibrating against radiative transfer outputs allows models to directly use remote sensing reflectance products without relying on highly derived products (such as MODIS leaf area index) whose assumptions may be incompatible with the target vegetation model and whose uncertainties are usually not well quantified.Here, we created the EDR model by coupling the two-stream representation of canopy radiative transfer in the Ecosystem Demography model version 2 (ED2) with a leaf radiative transfer model (PROSPECT-5) and a simple soil reflectance model to predict full-range, high-spectral-resolution surface reflectance that is dependent on the underlying ED2 model state.We then calibrated this model against estimates of hemispherical reflectance (corrected for directional effects) from the NASA Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) and survey data from 54 temperate forest plots in the northeastern United States.The calibration significantly reduced uncertainty in model parameters related to leaf biochemistry and morphology and canopy structure for five plant functional types.Using a single common set of parameters across all sites, the calibrated model was able to accurately reproduce surface reflectance for sites with highly varied forest composition and structure.However, the calibrated model's predictions of leaf area index (LAI) were less robust, capturing only 46 % of the variability in the observations.Comparing the ED2 radiative transfer model with another two-stream soil–leaf–canopy radiative transfer model commonly used in remote sensing studies (PRO4SAIL) illustrated structural errors in the ED2 representation of direct radiation backscatter that resulted in systematic underestimation of reflectance.In addition, we also highlight that, to directly compare with a two-stream radiative transfer model like EDR, we had to perform an additional processing step to convert the directional reflectance estimates of AVIRIS to hemispherical reflectance (also known as “albedo”).In future work, we recommend that vegetation models add the capability to predict directional reflectance, to allow them to more directly assimilate a wide range of airborne and satellite reflectance products.We ultimately conclude that despite these challenges, using dynamic vegetation models to predict surface reflectance is a promising avenue for model calibration and validation using remote sensing data. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Biodiversity projections with uncertainty estimates under different climate, land-use, and policy scenarios are essential to setting and achieving international targets to mitigate biodiversity loss. Evaluating and improving biodiversity predictions to better inform policy decisions remains a central conservation goal and challenge. A comprehensive strategy to evaluate and reduce uncertainty of model outputs against observed measurements and multiple models would help to produce more robust biodiversity predictions. We propose an approach that integrates biodiversity models and emerging remote sensing and in-situ data streams to evaluate and reduce uncertainty with the goal of improving policy-relevant biodiversity predictions. In this article, we describe a multivariate approach to directly and indirectly evaluate and constrain model uncertainty, demonstrate a proof of concept of this approach, embed the concept within the broader context of model evaluation and scenario analysis for conservation policy, and highlight lessons from other modeling communities. 
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  4. Abstract Aim

    Rapid global change is impacting the diversity of tree species and essential ecosystem functions and services of forests. It is therefore critical to understand and predict how the diversity of tree species is spatially distributed within and among forest biomes. Satellite remote sensing platforms have been used for decades to map forest structure and function but are limited in their capacity to monitor change by their relatively coarse spatial resolution and the complexity of scales at which different dimensions of biodiversity are observed in the field. Recently, airborne remote sensing platforms making use of passive high spectral resolution (i.e., hyperspectral) and active lidar data have been operationalized, providing an opportunity to disentangle how biodiversity patterns vary across space and time from field observations to larger scales. Most studies to date have focused on single sites and/or one sensor type; here we ask how multiple sensor types from the National Ecological Observatory Network’s Airborne Observation Platform (NEON AOP) perform across multiple sites in a single biome at the NEON field plot scale (i.e., 40 m × 40 m).


    Eastern USA.

    Time period


    Taxa studied



    With a fusion of hyperspectral and lidar data from the NEON AOP, we assess the ability of high resolution remotely sensed metrics to measure biodiversity variation across eastern US temperate forests. We examine how taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic measures of alpha diversity vary spatially and assess to what degree remotely sensed metrics correlate with in situ biodiversity metrics.


    Models using estimates of forest function, canopy structure, and topographic diversity performed better than models containing each category alone. Our results show that canopy structural diversity, and not just spectral reflectance, is critical to predicting biodiversity.

    Main conclusions

    We found that an approach that jointly leverages spectral properties related to leaf and canopy functional traits and forest health, lidar derived estimates of forest structure, fine‐resolution topographic diversity, and careful consideration of biogeographical differences within and among biomes is needed to accurately map biodiversity variation from above.

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  5. Abstract

    Plant functional diversity is strongly connected to photosynthetic carbon assimilation in terrestrial ecosystems. However, many of the plant functional traits that regulate photosynthetic capacity, including foliar nitrogen concentration and leaf mass per area, vary significantly between and within plant functional types and vertically through forest canopies, resulting in considerable landscape‐scale heterogeneity in three dimensions. Hyperspectral imagery has been used extensively to quantify functional traits across a range of ecosystems but is generally limited to providing information for top of canopy leaves only. On the other hand, lidar data can be used to retrieve the vertical structure of forest canopies. Because these data are rarely collected at the same time, there are unanswered questions about the effect of forest structure on the three ‐dimensional spatial patterns of functional traits across ecosystems. In the United States, the National Ecological Observatory Network's Airborne Observation Platform (NEON AOP) provides an opportunity to address this structure‐function relationship by collecting lidar and hyperspectral data together across a variety of ecoregions. With a fusion of hyperspectral and lidar data from the NEON AOP and field‐collected foliar trait data, we assessed the impacts of forest structure on spatial patterns of N. In addition, we examine the influence of abiotic gradients and management regimes on top‐of‐canopy percent N and total canopy N (i.e., the total amount of N [g/m2] within a forest canopy) at a NEON site consisting of a mosaic of open longleaf pine and dense broadleaf deciduous forests. Our resulting maps suggest that, in contrast to top of canopy values, total canopy N variation is dampened across this landscape resulting in relatively homogeneous spatial patterns. At the same time, we found that leaf functional diversity and canopy structural diversity showed distinct dendritic patterns related to the spatial distribution of plant functional types.

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  6. Niu, Shuli (Ed.)
  7. Abstract

    Terrestrial biosphere models can help identify physical processes that control carbon dynamics, including land‐atmosphere CO2fluxes, and have the potential to project the terrestrial ecosystem response to changing climate. It is important to identify ecosystem processes most responsible for model predictive uncertainty and design improved model representation and observational system studies to reduce that uncertainty. Here we identified model parameters that contribute the most uncertainty to long‐term (~100 years) projections of net ecosystem exchange, net primary production, and aboveground biomass within a mechanistic terrestrial biosphere model (Ecosystem Demography, version 2.1) ED2. An uncertainty analysis identified parameters that represent the quantum efficiency of light to photosynthetic conversion, leaf respiration and soil‐plant water transfer as the highest contributors to model uncertainty regardless of time frame (annual, decadal, and centennial) and output (e.g., net ecosystem exchange, net primary production, aboveground biomass). Contrary to expectations, the contribution of successional processes related to reproduction, competition, and mortality did not increase as the time scale increased. These findings suggest that uncertainty in the parameters governing short‐term ecosystem processes remains the most significant bottleneck to reducing predictive uncertainty. Key actions to reduce parameter uncertainty include more leaf‐level trait measurements across multiple sites for quantum efficiency and leaf respiration rate. Further, the empirical representation of soil‐plant water transfer should be replaced with a mechanistic, hydraulic representation of water flow, which can be constrained with direct measurements. This analysis focused on aboveground ecosystem processes. The impact of belowground carbon cycling, initial conditions, and meteorological forcing should be addressed in future studies.

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  8. Abstract

    Mechanistic photosynthesis models are at the heart of terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs) simulating the daily, monthly, annual and decadal rhythms of carbon assimilation (A). These models are founded on robust mathematical hypotheses that describe howAresponds to changes in light and atmospheric CO2concentration. Two predominant photosynthesis models are in common usage: Farquhar (FvCB) and Collatz (CBGB). However, a detailed quantitative comparison of these two models has never been undertaken. In this study, we unify the FvCB and CBGB models to a common parameter set and use novel multi‐hypothesis methods (that account for both hypothesis and parameter variability) for process‐level sensitivity analysis. These models represent three key biological processes: carboxylation, electron transport, triose phosphate use (TPU) and an additional model process: limiting‐rate selection. Each of the four processes comprises 1–3 alternative hypotheses giving 12 possible individual models with a total of 14 parameters. To broaden inference, TBM simulations were run and novel, high‐resolution photosynthesis measurements were made. We show that parameters associated with carboxylation are the most influentialparametersbut also reveal the surprising and marked dominance of the limiting‐rate selectionprocess(accounting for 57% of the variation inAvs. 22% for carboxylation). The limiting‐rate selection assumption proposed by CBGB smooths the transition between limiting rates and always reducesAbelow the minimum of all potentially limiting rates, by up to 25%, effectively imposing a fourth limitation onA. Evaluation of the CBGB smoothing function in three TBMs demonstrated a reduction in globalAby 4%–10%, equivalent to 50%–160% of current annual fossil fuel emissions. This analysis reveals a surprising and previously unquantified influence of a process that has been integral to many TBMs for decades, highlighting the value of multi‐hypothesis methods.

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