Observations and modeling of biomass and soil organic matter dynamics for the grassland biome worldwide


  • W. J. Parton,

  • J. M. O. Scurlock,

  • D. S. Ojima,

  • T. G. Gilmanov,

  • R. J. Scholes,

  • D. S. Schimel,

  • T. Kirchner,

  • J-C. Menaut,

  • T. Seastedt,

  • E. Garcia Moya,

  • Apinan Kamnalrut,

  • J. I. Kinyamario


Century is a model of terrestrial biogeochemistry based on relationships between climate, human management (fire, grazing), soil properties, plant productivity, and decomposition. The grassland version of the Century model was tested using observed data from 11 temperate and tropical grasslands around the world. The results show that soil C and N levels can be simulated to within ±25% of the observed values (100 and 75% of the time, respectively) for a diverse set of soils. Peak live biomass and plant production can be simulated within ± 25% of the observed values (57 and 60% of the time, respectively) for burned, fertilized, and irrigated grassland sites where precipitation ranged from 22 to over 150 cm. Live biomass can be generally predicted to within ±50% of the observed values (57% of the time). The model underestimated the live biomass in extremely high plant production years at two of the Russian sites. A comparison of Century model results with statistical models showed that the Century model had slightly higher r2 values than the statistical models. Data and calibrated model results from this study are useful for analysis and description of grassland carbon dynamics, and as a reference point for testing more physiologically based models prediction's of net primary production and biomass. Results indicate that prediction of plant and soil organic matter (C and N) dynamics requires knowledge of climate, soil texture, and N inputs.