Comparing the Performance of Three Land Models in Global C Cycle Simulations: A Detailed Structural Analysis

Rashid Rafique, Jianyang Xia, Oleksandra Hararuk, Guoyong Leng, Ghassem Asrar, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Land models are valuable tools to understand the dynamics of global carbon (C) cycle. Various models have been developed and used for predictions of future C dynamics but uncertainties still exist. Diagnosing the models' behaviors in terms of structures can help to narrow down the uncertainties in prediction of C dynamics. In this study three widely used land surface models, namely CSIRO's Atmosphere Biosphere Land Exchange (CABLE) with 9 C pools, Community Land Model (version 3·5) combined with Carnegie–Ames–Stanford Approach (CLM-CASA) with 12 C pools and Community Land Model (version 4) (CLM4) with 26 C pools were driven by the observed meteorological forcing. The simulated C storage and residence time were used for analysis. The C storage and residence time were computed globally for all individual soil and plant pools, as well as net primary productivity (NPP) and its allocation to different plant components' based on these models. Remotely sensed NPP and statistically derived HWSD, and GLC2000 datasets were used as a reference to evaluate the performance of these models. Results showed that CABLE exhibited better agreement with referenced C storage and residence time for plant and soil pools, as compared with CLM-CASA and CLM4. CABLE had longer bulk residence time for soil C pools and stored more C in roots, whereas, CLM-CASA and CLM4 stored more C in woody pools because of differential NPP allocation. Overall, these results indicate that the differences in C storage and residence times in three models are largely because of the differences in their fundamental structures (number of C pools), NPP allocation and C transfer rates. Our results have implications in model development and provide a general framework to explain the bias/uncertainties in simulation of C storage and residence times from the perspectives of model structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-533
Number of pages10
JournalLand Degradation and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • C partitioning coefficients
  • C pool
  • C residence time
  • C storage
  • C transfer coefficients
  • model structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Development
  • General Environmental Science
  • Soil Science


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