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A mechanistic ecohydrological model to investigate complex interactions in cold and warm water-controlled environments: 2. Spatiotemporal analyses

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Abstract

[1] An ecohydrological model Tethys-Chloris (T&C) described in the companion paper is applied to two semiarid systems characterized by different climate and vegetation cover conditions. The Lucky Hills watershed in Arizona represents a typical small, “unit-source” catchment of a desert shrub system of the U.S. southwest. Two nested basins of the Reynolds Creek Experimental watershed (Idaho, U.S.A.), the Reynolds Creek Mountain East and Tollgate catchments, are representative of a semiarid cold climate with seasonal snow cover. Both exhibit a highly non-uniform vegetation cover. A range of ecohydrological metrics of the long-term model performance is presented to highlight the model capabilities in reproducing hydrological and vegetation dynamics both at the plot and the watershed scales. A diverse set of observations is used to confirm the simulated dynamics. Highly satisfactory results are obtained without significant (or any) calibration efforts despite the large phase-space dimensionality of the model, the uncertainty of imposed boundary conditions, and limited data availability. It is argued that a significant investment into the model design based on the description of physical, biophysical, and ecological processes leads to such a consistent simulation skill. The simulated patterns mimic the outcome of hydrological and vegetation dynamics with high realism, as confirmed from spatially distributed remote sensing data. Further community efforts are warranted to address the issue of thorough quantitative assessment. The current lack of appropriate data hampers the development and testing of process-based ecohydrological models. It is further argued that the mechanistic nature of the T&C model can be valuable for designing virtual experiments and developing questions of scientific inquiry at a range of spatiotemporal scales.

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