Upscaling carbon fluxes from towers to the regional scale: Influence of parameter variability and land cover representation on regional flux estimates

Jingfeng Xiao, Kenneth J. Davis, Nathan M. Urban, Klaus Keller, Nicanor Z. Saliendra

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73 Scopus citations


Quantifying the current carbon cycle of terrestrial ecosystems requires that we translate spatially sparse measurements into consistent, gridded flux estimates at the regional scale. This is particularly challenging in heterogeneous regions such as the northern forests of the United States. We use a network of 17 eddy covariance flux towers deployed across the Upper Midwest region of northern Wisconsin and Michigan and upscale flux observations from towers to the regional scale. This region is densely instrumented and provides a unique test bed for regional upscaling. We develop a simple Diagnostic Carbon Flux Model (DCFM) and use flux observations and a data assimilation approach to estimate the model parameters. We then use the optimized model to produce gridded flux estimates across the region. We find that model parameters vary not only across plant functional types (PFT) but also within a given PFT. Our results show that the parameter estimates from a single site are not representative of the parameter values of a given PFT; cross-site (or joint) optimization using observations from multiple sites encompassing a range of site and climate conditions considerably improves the representativeness and robustness of parameter estimates. Parameter variability within a PFT can result in substantial variability in regional flux estimates. We also find that land cover representation including land cover heterogeneity and the spatial resolution and accuracy of land cover maps can lead to considerable uncertainty in regional flux estimates. In heterogeneous, complex regions, detailed and accurate land cover maps are essential for accurate estimation of regional fluxes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberG00J06
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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