Relative Role of Uncertainty for Predictions of Future Southeastern U.S. Pine Carbon Cycling

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Virginia Tech

Predictions of how forest productivity and carbon sequestration will respond to climate change are essential for making forest management decisions and adapting to future climate. However, current predictions can include considerable uncertainty that is not well quantified. To address the need for better quantification of uncertainty, we calculated and compared ecosystem model parameter, ecosystem model process, climate model, and climate scenario uncertainty for predictions of Southeastern U.S. pine forest productivity. We applied a data assimilation using Metropolis-Hastings Markov Chain Monte Carlo to fuse diverse datasets with the Physiological Principles Predicting Growth model. The spatially and temporally diverse data sets allowed for novel constraints on ecosystem model parameters and allowed for the quantification of uncertainty associated with parameterization and model structure (process). Overall, we found that the uncertainty is higher for parameter and process model uncertainty than the climate model uncertainty. We determined that climate change will result in a likely increase in terrestrial carbon storage and that higher emission scenarios increase the uncertainty in our predictions. In addition, we determined regional variations in biomass accumulation due to a response to the change in frost days, temperature, and vapor pressure deficit. Since the uncertainty associated with ecosystem model parameter and process uncertainty was larger than the uncertainty associated with climate predictions, our results indicate that better constraining parameters in ecosystem models and improving the mathematical structure of ecosystem models can improve future predictions of forest productivity and carbon sequestration.

data assimilation, Metropolis-Hastings Markov Chain Monte Carlo, carbon sequestration, pine plantation management, ecosystem modeling, identifying uncertainty