Root structural and functional dynamics in terrestrial biosphere models - evaluation and recommendations


There is wide breadth of root function within ecosystems that should be considered when modeling the terrestrial biosphere. Root structure and function are closely associated with control of plant water and nutrient uptake from the soil, plant carbon (C) assimilation, partitioning and release to the soils, and control of biogeochemical cycles through interactions within the rhizosphere. Root function is extremely dynamic and dependent on internal plant signals, root traits and morphology, and the physical, chemical and biotic soil environment. While plant roots have significant structural and functional plasticity to changing environmental conditions, their dynamics are noticeably absent from the land component of process-based Earth system models used to simulate global biogeochemical cycling. Their dynamic representation in large-scale models should improve model veracity. Here, we describe current root inclusion in models across scales, ranging from mechanistic processes of single roots to parameterized root processes operating at the landscape scale. With this foundation we discuss how existing and future root functional knowledge, new data compilation efforts, and novel modeling platforms can be leveraged to enhance root functionality in large-scale terrestrial biosphere models by improving parameterization within models, and introducing new components such as dynamic root distribution and root functional traits linked to resource extraction.

Journal Article
Year of Publication
New Phytologist
Number of Pages
59 - 78
Date Published
Short Title
New Phytol