Terrestrial Carbon Cycle

To understand the role and response of the terrestrial carbon cycle, vegetation and ecosystems in future climate change.

The terrestrial carbon cycle and the world's ecosystems are sensitive to climate and, therefore, to future climate change. They are also able to influence climate through numerous biophysical and biogeochemical mechanisms such as carbon storage within ecosystems; land surface albedo, or interactions between vegetation and atmospheric chemistry. The world's land surface is also directly affected by human activity such as deforestation or agriculture and, therefore, acts as a driver of climate change in addition to burning of fossil fuels. The TCC group aims to understand these processes and feedbacks with focus on providing policy-relevant advice for climate mitigation.

Key aims

  • Improve modelling of vegetation and ecosystem processes and model constraints through comparison with observations.

  • Implement vegetation processes in coupled climate and Earth System models, and understand the feedbacks and interactions.

  • Identify and address missing processes in these models.

Current projects

Perform Earth System model simulations for CMIP 5

(Chris Jones, John Hughes, Spencer Liddicoat)

This work aims to set-up and perform simulations with the Met Office's Earth System model HadGEM2-ES, complying with the CMIP5 experimental design for centennial experiments. The results will be a central focus for analysis for the IPCC Fifth Assessment report (AR5) in 2013. The TCC group's main focus, along with the Ocean Biogeochemistry team, will be on analysing feedbacks between climate and the carbon cycle.

Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) development

(Spencer Liddicoat, Federica Pacifico, David Pearson)

We are committed to improving the representation of processes within the JULES land surface model, and current work focuses on implementation of land-management processes; Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (BVOC) emissions from vegetation, and constraining parameters in the model using data assimilation techniques and a range of observations.

Coupled model development

(Chris Jones, John Hughes)

As part of the EU-funded project, COMBINE, we are implementing improved processes in our coupled climate-carbon cycle models. Particular focus is on the nitrogen cycle, permafrost and land-use change.

Model evaluation

(Chris Jones, David Pearson)

As part of the EU-funded project, CARBONES, we will be assessing the best way to make use of existing observational data on vegetation and the carbon cycle to constrain future projections. Work within the forthcoming EU project GreenCycles2 will also contribute to model evaluation and constraint.

Analysis and evaluation of ecosystem and carbon cycle response to climate change

(Chris Jones, John Hughes, Spencer Liddicoat, Ben Booth, Marie Doutriaux-Boucher, Peter Good, Jason Lowe)

Existing model simulations are been investigated in detail to analyse the processes which determine ecosystems response to, and influence on, climate.

In particular we are:

  • developing frameworks to quantify biogeochemical feedbacks in earth-system models such as from the C4MIP Intercomparison;

  • looking at committed changes to ecosystems which continue to respond for decades after climate stabilisation, and the climate drivers responsible for them;

  • developing techniques to analyse large ensembles and constrain results using available observations.

Last updated: 29 July 2014