Modeling the terrestrial biosphere

Joshua B. Fisher, Deborah N. Huntzinger, Christopher R. Schwalm, Stephen Sitch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


The land surface comprises the smallest areal fraction of the Earth system's major components (e.g., versus atmosphere or ocean with cryosphere). As such, how is it that some of the largest sources of uncertainty in future climate projections are found in the terrestrial biosphere? This uncertainty stems from how the terrestrial biosphere is modeled with respect to the myriad of biogeochemical, physical, and dynamic processes represented (or not) in numerous models that contribute to projections of Earth's future. Here, we provide an overview of the processes included in terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs), including various approaches to representing any one given process, as well as the processes that are missing and/or uncertain. We complement this with a comprehensive review of individual TBMs, marking the differences, uniqueness, and recent and planned developments. To conclude, we summarize the latest results in benchmarking activities, particularly as linked to recent model intercomparison projects, and outline a path forward to reducing uncertainty in the contribution of the terrestrial biosphere to global atmospheric change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-123
Number of pages33
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Biogeochemical
  • Carbon
  • Cycle
  • Ecosystem
  • Land surface
  • Model
  • Nutrients
  • Plant
  • Terrestrial biosphere
  • Vegetation
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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