21st-century biogeochemical modeling: Challenges for Century-based models and where do we go from here?

Danielle Berardi, Edward Brzostek, Elena Blanc-Betes, Brian Davison, Evan H. DeLucia, Melannie D. Hartman, Jeffrey Kent, William J. Parton, Debasish Saha, Tara W. Hudiburg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


21st-century modeling of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from bioenergy crops is necessary to quantify the extent to which bioenergy production can mitigate climate change. For over 30 years, the Century-based biogeochemical models have provided the preeminent framework for belowground carbon and nitrogen cycling in ecosystem and earth system models. While monthly Century and the daily time-step version of Century (DayCent) have advanced our ability to predict the sustainability of bioenergy crop production, new advances in feedstock generation, and our empirical understanding of sources and sinks of GHGs in soils call for a re-visitation of DayCent's core model structures. Here, we evaluate current challenges with modeling soil carbon dynamics, trace gas fluxes, and drought and age-related impacts on bioenergy crop productivity. We propose coupling a microbial process-based soil organic carbon and nitrogen model with DayCent to improve soil carbon dynamics. We describe recent improvements to DayCent for simulating unique plant structural and physiological attributes of perennial bioenergy grasses. Finally, we propose a method for using machine learning to identify key parameters for simulating N2O emissions. Our efforts are focused on meeting the needs for modeling bioenergy crops; however, many updates reviewed and suggested to DayCent will be broadly applicable to other systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)774-788
Number of pages15
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • NO
  • bioenergy
  • biogeochemical modeling
  • drought
  • plant age dynamics
  • soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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