Peatlands contain approximately 25% of the global soil carbon (C), despite covering only 3% of the earth's land surface. In order to evaluate the role of peatlands in global C cycling, models of ecosystem biogeochemistry are required, but peatland ecosystems present a number of unique challenges, particularly how to deal with the large variability that occurs at scales of one to several metres. In models, spatial variability is considered either explicitly for each individual unit and the outputs averaged, referred to as flux upscaling, or implicitly by weighting model parameters by the fractional occurrence of the individual units, referred to as parameter upscaling. The advantage of parameter upscaling is that it is much more computationally efficient: a requirement for hemispheric scale simulations. In this study we determined the differences between modelling a raised bog peatland with hummock-hollow microtopography using flux and parameter upscaling. We used the McGill Wetland Model (MWM), a process-based ecosystem C model for peatlands, configured for hummocks and hollows separately and then a weighted mixture of both. The simulated output based on flux and parameter upscaling was compared with eddy-covariance tower measurements. We found that net ecosystem production (NEP) for hollows was much larger than that for hummocks because total ecosystem respiration (TER) for hummocks was greater while gross primary production (GPP) did not differ significantly between the two topographic features. However, despite differences in components of NEP between hummocks and hollows, there was no statistically significant difference between the NEP based on flux and parameter upscaling using the MWM. Both flux and parameter upscaling show equivalent capability to capture the magnitude, direction, seasonality and inter-annual variability. The root-mean-square-errors (RMSE) are 0.66, 0.45, and 0.49gCm-2day-1, respectively for GPP, TER and NEP based on the flux upscaling, while 0.67, 0.44, and 0.48gCm-2day-1, respectively based on the parameter upscaling. The degree of agreement (d*) is 0.96, 0.97, and 0.88, respectively for GPP, TER and NEP based on the flux upscaling, while 0.96, 0.97, and 0.89, respectively based on the parameter upscaling. This result suggests that differences in processes caused by peatland microtopography scale linearly, which means an ecosystem-level model set-up (i.e. parameter upscaling scheme), is sufficient to simulate the C cycling.

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Ecological Modelling
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Wu, J. (Jianghua), Roulet, N.T. (Nigel T.), Moore, T.R. (Tim R.), Lafleur, P. (Peter), & Humphreys, E. (2011). Dealing with microtopography of an ombrotrophic bog for simulating ecosystem-level CO2 exchanges. Ecological Modelling, 222(4), 1038–1047. doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2010.07.015