Carbon and Water Use Efficiencies: A Comparative Analysis of Ten Terrestrial Ecosystem Models under Changing Climate

Bassil El Masri, Christopher Schwalm, Deborah N. Huntzinger, Jiafu Mao, Xiaoying Shi, Changhui Peng, Joshua B. Fisher, Atul K. Jain, Hanqin Tian, Benjamin Poulter, Anna M. Michalak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Terrestrial ecosystems carbon and water cycles are tightly coupled through photosynthesis and evapotranspiration processes. The ratios of carbon stored to carbon uptake and water loss to carbon gain are key ecophysiological indicators essential to assess the magnitude and response of the terrestrial plant to the changing climate. Here, we use estimates from 10 terrestrial ecosystem models to quantify the impacts of climate, atmospheric CO2 concentration, and nitrogen (N) deposition on water use efficiency (WUE), and carbon use efficiency (CUE). We find that across models, WUE increases over the 20th Century particularly due to CO2 fertilization and N deposition and compares favorably to experimental studies. Also, the results show a decrease in WUE with climate for the last 3 decades, in contrasts with up-scaled flux observations that demonstrate a constant WUE. Modeled WUE responds minimally to climate with modeled CUE exhibiting no clear trend across space and time. The divergence between simulated and observationally-constrained WUE and CUE is driven by modeled NPP and autotrophic respiration, nitrogen cycle, carbon allocation, and soil moisture dynamics in current ecosystem models. We suggest that carbon-modeling community needs to reexamine stomatal conductance schemes and the soil-vegetation interactions for more robust modeling of carbon and water cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14680
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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