Biogeochemical models are often used for making projections of future carbon dynamics under scenarios of global change. The aim of this study was to assess the accuracy of the process-based biogeochemical model Biome-BGC for application in central European forests from the lowlands to upper treeline as a pre-requisite for environmental impact assessments. We analyzed model behavior along an altitudinal gradient across the alpine treeline, which provided insights on the sensitivity of simulated average carbon pools to changes in environmental factors. A second set of tests included medium-term (30 years) simulations of carbon fluxes, and a third set of tests focused on daily carbon and water fluxes. Model results were compared to aboveground biomass measurements, leaf area index recordings as well as net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and actual evapotranspiration (AET) measurements. The simulated medium-term forest growth agreed well with measured data. Also daily NEE fluxes were simulated adequately in most cases. Problems were detected when simulating ecosystems close to the upper timberline (overestimation of measured growth and pool sizes), and when simulating daily AET fluxes (overestimation of measured fluxes). The results showed that future applications of Biome-BGC could benefit much from an improvement of model algorithms (e.g., the Q10 model for respiration) as well as from a detailed analysis of the ecological significance of crucial parameters (e.g., the canopy water interception coefficient).
Keywords: Biogeochemical model - Biome-BGC - Central Europe - Alps - Forests - Treeline - Model evaluation - Euroflux - Carbon dynamics - Water dynamics