Environmental change impacts on the C- and N-cycle of European forests: a model comparison study

Cameron, D.; Oijen, M. van; Werner, C.; Butterbach-Bahl, K.; Haas, E.; Heuvelink, G.B.M.; Grote, R.; Kiese, R.; Kuhnert, M.; Kros, J.; Leip, A.; Reuter, H.I.; Reinds, G.J.; Schelhaas, M.J.; Vries, W. de; Yeluripati, J.


Forests are important components of the greenhouse gas balance of Europe. There is considerable uncertainty about how predicted changes to climate and nitrogen deposition will perturb the carbon and nitrogen cycles of European forests and thereby alter forest growth, carbon sequestration and N2O emission. The present study aimed to quantify the carbon and nitrogen balance, including the exchange of greenhouse gases, of European forests over the period 2010–2030, with a particular emphasis on the spatial variability of change. The analysis was carried out for two tree species: European beech and Scots pine. For this purpose, four different dynamic models were used: BASFOR, DailyDayCent, INTEGRATOR and Landscape-DNDC. These models span a range from semi-empirical to complex mechanistic. Comparison of these models allowed assessment of the extent to which model predictions depended on differences in model inputs and structure. We found a European average carbon sink of 0.160 ± 0.020 kgC m-2 yr-1 (pine) and 0.138 ± 0.062 kgC m-2 yr-1 (beech) and N2O source of 0.285 ± 0.125 kgN ha-1 yr-1 (pine) and 0.575 ± 0.105 kgN ha-1 yr-1 (beech). The European average greenhouse gas potential of the carbon source was 18 (pine) and 8 (beech) times that of the N2O source. Carbon sequestration was larger in the trees than in the soil. Carbon sequestration and forest growth were largest in central Europe and lowest in northern Sweden and Finland, N. Poland and S. Spain. No single driver was found to dominate change across Europe. Forests were found to be most sensitive to change in environmental drivers where the drivers were limiting growth, where changes were particularly large or where changes acted in concert. The models disagreed as to which environmental changes were most significant for the geographical variation in forest growth and as to which tree species showed the largest rate of carbon sequestration. Pine and beech forests were found to have differing sensitivities to environmental change, in particular the response to changes in nitrogen and precipitation, with beech forest more vulnerable to drought. There was considerable uncertainty about the geographical location of N2O emissions. Two of the models BASFOR and LandscapeDNDC had largest emissions in central Europe where nitrogen deposition and soil nitrogen were largest whereas the two other models identified different regions with large N2O emission. N2O emissions were found to be larger from beech than pine forests and were found to be particularly sensitive to forest growth.