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A dynamic global vegetation model for use with climate models: concepts and description of simulated vegetation dynamics


G. B. Bonan, National Center for Atmospheric Research, PO Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307, USA, fax 303 497 1695, e-mail:


Changes in vegetation structure and biogeography due to climate change feedback to alter climate by changing fluxes of energy, moisture, and momentum between land and atmosphere. While the current class of land process models used with climate models parameterizes these fluxes in detail, these models prescribe surface vegetation and leaf area from data sets. In this paper, we describe an approach in which ecological concepts from a global vegetation dynamics model are added to the land component of a climate model to grow plants interactively. The vegetation dynamics model is the Lund–Potsdam–Jena (LPJ) dynamic global vegetation model. The land model is the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Land Surface Model (LSM). Vegetation is defined in terms of plant functional types. Each plant functional type is represented by an individual plant with the average biomass, crown area, height, and stem diameter (trees only) of its population, by the number of individuals in the population, and by the fractional cover in the grid cell. Three time-scales (minutes, days, and years) govern the processes. Energy fluxes, the hydrologic cycle, and carbon assimilation, core processes in LSM, occur at a 20 min time step. Instantaneous net assimilated carbon is accumulated annually to update vegetation once a year. This is carried out with the addition of establishment, resource competition, growth, mortality, and fire parameterizations from LPJ. The leaf area index is updated daily based on prevailing environmental conditions, but the maximum value depends on the annual vegetation dynamics. The coupling approach is successful. The model simulates global biogeography, net primary production, and dynamics of tundra, boreal forest, northern hardwood forest, tropical rainforest, and savanna ecosystems, which are consistent with observations. This suggests that the model can be used with a climate model to study biogeophysical feedbacks in the climate system related to vegetation dynamics.