Model inter-comparison between statistical and dynamic model assessments of the long-term stability of blanket peat in Great Britain (1940–2099)

J Clark, M Billett, M Coyle, S Croft, S Daniels, C D Evans, M Evans, C Freeman, A V Gallego-Sala, A Heinemeyer, J I House, D T Monteith, D Nayak, H G Orr, I C Prentice, R Rose, J G Rowson, J U Smith, P Smith, Y M TunE Vanguelova, F Wetterhall, F Worrall

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    We compared output from 3 dynamic process-based models (DMs: ECOSSE, MILLENNIA and the Durham Carbon Model) and 9 bioclimatic envelope models (BCEMs; including BBOG ensemble and PEATSTASH) ranging from simple threshold to semi-process-based models. Model simulations were run at 4 British peatland sites using historical climate data and climate projections under a medium (A1B) emissions scenario from the 11-RCM (regional climate model) ensemble underpinning UKCP09. The models showed that blanket peatlands are vulnerable to projected climate change; however, predictions varied between models as well as between sites. All BCEMs predicted a shift from presence to absence of a climate associated with blanket peat, where the sites with the lowest total annual precipitation were closest to the presence/absence threshold. DMs showed a more variable response. ECOSSE predicted a decline in net C sink and shift to net C source by the end of this century. The Durham Carbon Model predicted a smaller decline in the net C sink strength, but no shift to net C source. MILLENNIA predicted a slight overall increase in the net C sink. In contrast to the BCEM projections, the DMs predicted that the sites with coolest temperatures and greatest total annual precipitation showed the largest change in carbon sinks. In this model inter-comparison, the greatest variation in model output in response to climate change projections was not between the BCEMs and DMs but between the DMs themselves, because of different approaches to modelling soil organic matter pools and decomposition amongst other processes. The difference in the sign of the response has major implications for future climate feedbacks, climate policy and peatland management. Enhanced data collection, in particular monitoring peatland response to current change, would significantly improve model development and projections of future change
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)227-281
    JournalClimate Research (CR)
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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