The current emphasis on global climate studies has led the scientific community to set up a number of sites for measuring long-term biospheric fluxes, and to develop a wide range of biosphere–atmosphere exchange models. This paper presents a new model of this type, which has been developed for a pine forest canopy. In most coniferous species the canopy layer is well separated from the understorey and several cohorts of needles coexist. It was therefore found necessary to distinguish several vegetation layers and, in each layer, several leaf classes defined not only by their light regime and wetness status but also by their age. This model, named MuSICA, is a multilayer, multileaf process-based model. Each submodel is first independently parameterized using data collected at a EUROFLUX site near Bordeaux (Southwestern France). Particular care is brought to identify the seasonal variations in the various physiological parameters. The full model is then evaluated using a two-year long data set, split up into 12 day-type classes defined by the season, the weather type and the soil water status. Beyond the good overall agreement obtained between measured and modelled values at various time scales, several points of further improvement are identified. They concern the seasonal variations in the stomatal response of needles and the soil/litter respiration, as well as their interaction with soil or litter moisture. A sensitivity analysis to some of the model features (in-canopy turbulent transfer scheme, leaf age classes, water retention, distinction between shaded and sunlit leaves, number of layers) is finally performed in order to evaluate whether significant simplifications can be brought to such a model with little loss in its predictive quality. The distinction between several leaf classes is crucial if one is to compute biospheric fluxes accurately. It is also evidenced that accounting for in-canopy turbulent transfer leads to better estimates of the sensible heat flux.
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