A paper co-authored by Professor George Hurtt entitled “Vegetation demographics in Earth System Models: A review of progress and priorities” was the most cited article in the journal Global Change Biology in 2018. This paper reviews the state of vegetation demographics and ecosystem ecology in Earth System Models and identifies issues that highlight gaps in ecological understanding. The authors argue that stronger and more innovative connections to data are required to address these gaps.

The abstract for the paper is provided below:

Numerous current efforts seek to improve the representation of ecosystem ecology and vegetation demographic processes within Earth System Models (ESMs). These developments are widely viewed as an important step in developing greater realism in predictions of future ecosystem states and fluxes. Increased realism, however, leads to increased model complexity, with new features raising a suite of ecological questions that require empirical constraints. Here, we review the developments that permit the representation of plant demographics in ESMs, and identify issues raised by these developments that highlight important gaps in ecological understanding. These issues inevitably translate into uncertainty in model projections but also allow models to be applied to new processes and questions concerning the dynamics of realworld ecosystems. We argue that stronger and more innovative connections to data, across the range of scales considered, are required to address these gaps in understanding. The development of firstgeneration land surface models as a unifying framework for ecophysiological understanding stimulated much research into plant physiological traits and gas exchange. Constraining predictions at ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales will require a similar investment of effort and intensified interdisciplinary communication.


Organization of canopy schemes in four vegetation demographic models