Incorporating dynamic vegetation cover within global climate models

Jonathan A. Foley, Samuel Levis, Marcos Heil Costa, Wolfgang Cramer, David Pollard

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Numerical models of Earth's climate system must consider the atmosphere and terrestrial biosphere as a coupled system, with biogeophysical and biogeochemical processes occurring across a range of timescales. On short timescales (i.e., seconds to hours), the coupled system is dominated by the rapid biophysical and biogeochemical processes that exchange energy, water, carbon dioxide, and momentum between the atmosphere and the land surface. Intermediate-timescale (i.e. days to months) processes include changes in the store of soil moisture, changes in carbon allocation, and vegetation phenology (e.g., budburst, leaf-out, senescence, dormancy). On longer timescales (i.e., seasons, years, and decades), there can be fundamental changes in the vegetation structure itself (disturbance, land use, stand growth). In order to consider the full range of coupled atmosphere-biosphere processes, we must extend climate models to include intermediate and long-term ecological phenomena. This paper reviews early attempts at linking climate and equilibrium vegetation models through iterative coupling techniques, and some important insights gained through this procedure. We then summarize recent developments in coupling global vegetation and climate models, and some of the applications of these tools to modeling climate change. Furthermore, we discuss more recent developments in vegetation models (including a new class of models called 'dynamic global vegetation models') and how these models are incorporated with atmospheric general circulation models fully coupled climate-vegetation models are still the very early stages of development. Nevertheless, these prototype models have already indicated the importance of considering vegetation cover as an interactive part of the climate system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1620-1632
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology


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