Modeling the vegetation-atmosphere carbon dioxide and water vapor interactions along a controlled CO2 gradient

Stefano Manzoni, Gabriel Katul, Philip A. Fay, H. Wayne Polley, Amilcare Porporato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Ecosystem functioning is intimately linked to its physical environment by complex two-way interactions. These two-way interactions arise because vegetation both responds to the external environment and actively regulates its micro-environment. By altering stomatal aperture, and therefore the transpiration rate, plants modify soil moisture and atmospheric humidity and these same physical variables, in return, modify stomatal conductance. Relationships between biotic and abiotic components are particularly strong in closed, managed environments such as greenhouses and growth chambers, which are used extensively to investigate ecosystem responses to climatic drivers. Model-assisted designs that account for the physiological dynamics governing two-way interactions between biotic and abiotic components are absent from many ecological studies. Here, a general model of the vegetation-atmosphere system in closed environments is proposed. The model accounts for the linked carbon-water physiology, the turbulent transport processes, and the energy and radiative transfer within the vegetation. Leaf gas exchange is modeled using a carbon gain optimization approach that is coupled to leaf energy balance. The turbulent transport within the canopy is modeled in two-dimensions using first-order closure principles. The model is applied to the Lysimeter CO2 Gradient (LYCOG) facility, wherein a continuous gradient of atmospheric CO2 is maintained on grassland assemblages using an elongated chamber where the micro-climate is regulated by variation in air flow rates. The model is employed to investigate how species composition, climatic conditions, and the imposed air flow rate affect the CO2 concentration gradient within the LYCOG and the canopy micro-climate. The sensitivity of the model to key physiological and climatic parameters allows it to be used not only to manage current experiments, but also to formulate novel ecological hypotheses (e.g., by modeling climatic regimes not currently employed in LYCOG) and suggest alternative experimental designs and operational strategies for such facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-665
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 10 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Ecology


  • Canopy turbulence
  • Elevated CO
  • Enclosed environments
  • Heat exchange
  • Optimal stomatal conductance
  • Photosynthesis


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