Testing the performance of a dynamic global ecosystem model: Water balance, carbon balance, and vegetation structure


  • Christopher J. Kucharik,

  • Jonathan A. Foley,

  • Christine Delire,

  • Veronica A. Fisher,

  • Michael T. Coe,

  • John D. Lenters,

  • Christine Young-Molling,

  • Navin Ramankutty,

  • John M. Norman,

  • Stith T. Gower


While a new class of Dynamic Global Ecosystem Models (DGEMs) has emerged in the past few years as an important tool for describing global biogeochemical cycles and atmosphere-biosphere interactions, these models are still largely untested. Here we analyze the behavior of a new DGEM and compare the results to global-scale observations of water balance, carbon balance, and vegetation structure. In this study, we use version 2 of the Integrated Biosphere Simulator (IBIS), which includes several major improvements and additions to the prototype model developed by Foley et al. [1996]. IBIS is designed to be a comprehensive model of the terrestrial biosphere; the model represents a wide range of processes, including land surface physics, canopy physiology, plant phenology, vegetation dynamics and competition, and carbon and nutrient cycling. The model generates global simulations of the surface water balance (e.g., runoff), the terrestrial carbon balance (e.g., net primary production, net ecosystem exchange, soil carbon, aboveground and belowground litter, and soil CO2 fluxes), and vegetation structure (e.g., biomass, leaf area index, and vegetation composition). In order to test the performance of the model, we have assembled a wide range of continental and global-scale data, including measurements of river discharge, net primary production, vegetation structure, root biomass, soil carbon, litter carbon, and soil CO2 flux. Using these field data and model results for the contemporary biosphere (1965–1994), our evaluation shows that simulated patterns of runoff, NPP, biomass, leaf area index, soil carbon, and total soil CO2 flux agree reasonably well with measurements that have been compiled from numerous ecosystems. These results also compare favorably to other global model results.