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Jung, Martin; Schwalm, Christopher; Migliavacca, Mirco; Walther, Sophia; Camps-Valls, Gustau; Koirala, Sujan; Anthoni, Peter; Besnard, Simon; Bodesheim, Paul; Carvalhais, Nuno; Chevallier, Frederic; Gans, Fabian; Groll, Daniel S.; Haverd, Vanessa; Ichii, Kazuhito; Jain, Atul K.; Liu, Junzhi; Lombardozzi, Danica; Nabel, Julia E. M. S.; Nelson, Jacob A.; Pallandt, Martijn; Papale, Dario; Peters, Wouter; Pongratz, Julia ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0372-3960; Rödenbeck, Stephen; Sitch, Stephen; Tramontana, Gianluca; O'Sullivan, Michael and Walker, Anthony (2019): Scaling carbon fluxes from eddy covariance sites to globe: Synthesis and evaluation of the FLUXCOM approach. In: Biogeosciences [PDF, 3MB]

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FLUXNET assembles globally-distributed eddy covariance-based estimates of carbon fluxes between the biosphere and the atmosphere. Since eddy covariance flux towers have a relatively small footprint and are distributed unevenly across the world, upscaling the observations is necessary in order to obtain global-scale estimates of biosphere-atmosphere exchange from the flux tower network. Based on cross-consistency checks with atmospheric inversions, sun-induced fluorescence (SIF) and dynamic global vegetation models (DGVM), we provide here a systematic assessment of the latest upscaling efforts for gross primary production (GPP) and net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of the FLUXCOM initiative, where different machine learning methods, forcing datasets, and sets of predictor variables were employed.

Spatial patterns of mean GPP are consistent among FLUXCOM and DGVM ensembles (R2 > 0.94 at 1° spatial resolution) while the majority of DGVMs are outside the FLUXCOM range for 70 % of the land surface. Global mean GPP magnitudes for 2008–2010 from FLUXCOM members vary within 106 and 130 PgC yr−1 with the largest uncertainty in the tropics. Seasonal variations of independent SIF estimates agree better with FLUXCOM GPP (mean global pixel-wise R2 ~ 0.75) than with GPP from DGVMs (mean global pixel wise R2 ~ 0.6). Seasonal variations of FLUXCOM NEE show good consistency with atmospheric inversion-based net land carbon fluxes, particularly for temperate and boreal regions (R2 > 0.92). Interannual variability of global NEE in FLUXCOM is underestimated compared to inversions and DGVMs. The FLUXCOM version which uses also meteorological inputs shows a strong co-variation of interannual patterns with inversions (R2 = 0.88 for 2001–2010). Mean regional NEE from FLUXCOM shows larger uptake than inversion and DGVM-based estimates, particularly in the tropics with discrepancies of up to several hundred gC m2 yr−1. These discrepancies can only partly be reconciled by carbon loss pathways that are implicit in inversions but not captured by the flux tower measurements such as carbon emissions from fires and water bodies. We hypothesize that a combination of systematic biases in the underlying eddy covariance data, in particular in tall tropical forests, and a lack of site-history effects on NEE in FLUXCOM are likely responsible for the too strong tropical carbon sink estimated by FLUXCOM. Furthermore, as FLUXCOM does not account for CO2 fertilization effects carbon flux trends are not realistic. Overall, current FLUXCOM estimates of mean annual and seasonal cycles of GPP as well as seasonal NEE variations provide useful constraints of global carbon cycling, while interannual variability patterns from FLUXCOM are valuable but require cautious interpretation. Exploring the diversity of Earth Observation data and of machine learning concepts along with improved quality and quantity of flux tower measurements will facilitate further improvements of the FLUXCOM approach overall.

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