Nitrogen cycling and feedbacks in a global dynamic land model

Stefan Gerber, Lars O. Hedin, Michael Oppenheimer, Stephen W. Pacala, Elena Shevliakova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Global anthropogenic changes in carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycles call for modeling tools that are able to address and quantify essential interactions between N, C, and climate in terrestrial ecosystems. Here we introduce a prognostic N cycle within the Princeton-Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory (GFDL) LM3V land model. The model captures mechanisms essential for N cycling and their feedbacks on C cycling: N limitation of plant productivity, the N dependence of C decomposition and stabilization in soils, removal of available N by competing sinks, ecosystem losses that include dissolved organic and volatile N, and ecosystem inputs through biological N fixation. Our model captures many essential characteristics of C-N interactions and is capable of broadly recreating spatial and temporal variations in N and C dynamics. The introduced N dynamics improve the model's short-term NPP response to step changes in CO2. Consistent with theories of successional dynamics, we find that physical disturbance induces strong C-N feedbacks, caused by intermittent N loss and subsequent N limitation. In contrast, C-N interactions are weak when the coupled model system approaches equilibrium. Thus, at steady state, many simulated features of the carbon cycle, such as primary productivity and carbon inventories, are similar to simulations that do not include C-N feedbacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberGB1001
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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