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Modeling Global Carbon Costs of Plant Nitrogen and Phosphorus Acquisition

Braghiere, R. K. and Fisher, J. B. and Allen, K. and Brzostek, E. and Shi, M. and Yang, X. and Ricciuto, D. M. and Fisher, R. A. and Zhu, Q. and Phillips, R. P. (2022) Modeling Global Carbon Costs of Plant Nitrogen and Phosphorus Acquisition. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 14 (8). Art. No. e2022MS003204. ISSN 1942-2466. doi:10.1029/2022ms003204.

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Most Earth system models (ESMs) do not explicitly represent the carbon (C) costs of plant nutrient acquisition, which leads to uncertainty in predictions of the current and future constraints to the land C sink. We integrate a plant productivity-optimizing nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) acquisition model (fixation & uptake of nutrients, FUN) into the energy exascale Earth system (E3SM) land model (ELM). Global plant N and P uptake are dynamically simulated by ELM-FUN based on the C costs of nutrient acquisition from mycorrhizae, direct root uptake, retranslocation from senescing leaves, and biological N fixation. We benchmarked ELM-FUN with three classes of products: ILAMB, a remotely sensed nutrient limitation product, and CMIP6 models; we found significant improvements in C cycle variables, although the lack of more observed nutrient data prevents a comprehensive level of benchmarking. Overall, we found N and P co-limitation for 80% of land area, with the remaining 20% being either predominantly N or P limited. Globally, the new model predicts that plants invested 4.1 Pg C yr⁻¹ to acquire 841.8 Tg N yr⁻¹ and 48.1 Tg P yr⁻¹ (1994–2005), leading to significant downregulation of global net primary production (NPP). Global NPP is reduced by 20% with C costs of N and 50% with C costs of NP. Modeled and observed nutrient limitation agreement increases when N and P are considered together (r² from 0.73 to 0.83).

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Information ItemE3SM project ItemE3SM quick start ItemPatch file and all Python scripts ItemCMIP6 archive ItemILAMB package ItemILAMB plots
Braghiere, R. K.0000-0002-7722-717X
Fisher, J. B.0000-0003-4734-9085
Allen, K.0000-0001-6082-6486
Brzostek, E.0000-0002-2964-0576
Yang, X.0000-0002-2686-745X
Ricciuto, D. M.0000-0002-3668-3021
Fisher, R. A.0000-0003-3260-9227
Zhu, Q.0000-0003-2441-944X
Phillips, R. P.0000-0002-1345-4138
Additional Information:This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Terrestrial Ecosystem Science program under Award Numbers DE-SC0008317 and DE-SC0016188. Funding was also provided by the NASA IDS program. This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged. Copyright 2022. All rights reserved. This research used resources of the Compute and Data Environment for Science at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract DE-AC05- 00OR22725. MS was partly supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Biological and Environmental Research as part of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program through the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE) Tropics project. PNNL is operated by Battelle Memorial Institute for the U.S. DOE under contract DE-AC05-76RLO1830. RAF was supported by EU H2020 programs ESM2025 (grant agreement no. 101003536) and 4C (GA 821003). This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Research Coordination Grant (DEB-1754126) to investigate nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. We would like to thank Benjamin Sulman for helping with ELM, T. Davies-Barnard and Enzai Du for sharing validation data sets, Nate Collier and Min Xu for helping with ILAMB. Data Availability Statement: The E3SM project, code, simulation configurations, model output, and tools to work with the output are described at Instructions on how to get started running E3SM are available at A patch file and all Python scripts to generate the figures can be found in The CMIP6 data simulations performed by various modeling groups are available from the CMIP6 archive ( Over land, NPP was used from historical runs. At the CMIP6 archive site searching for a given model, a given experiment, and a given variable name will yield the link to the data set that can be downloaded. Although the average annual value for the period 1994–2005 is used for analysis in this paper, the CMIP6 data archive typically provides monthly values for most variables. The ILAMB package can be downloaded from The ISLSCP II IGBP NPP Output from Terrestrial Biogeochemistry Models data set is available in Cramer et al. (2011). All ILAMB plots with ELM, ELM-FUN2.0, and ELM-FUN3.0 are available from The nutrient limitation data product is available from Fisher et al. (2012).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-SC0008317
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-SC0016188
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-AC05-0OR22725
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-AC05-76RLO1830
European Research Council (ERC)101003536
European Research Council (ERC)821003
Subject Keywords:biological nitrogen fixation; CMIP6; carbon cost; E3SM Land Model; Fixation and Uptake of Nutrients; mycorrhizae; net primary production; nitrogen and phosphorus uptake
Issue or Number:8
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220815-504783000
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:116288
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:16 Aug 2022 14:06
Last Modified:13 Jan 2023 18:24

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