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Harvard Forest REU Symposium Abstract 2021

  • Title: Using Site-Specific Soil Moisture Data to Better Forecast Ecosystem Water Fluxes
  • Author: Christina K Francis (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Abstract:

    Soil moisture plays an important role in the ecological water cycle, which is relevant in the conversation of climate change, as global concentrations of atmospheric water vapor are projected to increase, and different areas of the globe are expected to experience drought conditions while others will face heavy precipitation events and flooding. The Predictive Ecosystem Analyzer (PEcAn) is an open-source ecological workflow management software that can be used to run reproducible forecasts of the movement of water within an ecosystem. Through this research project, we investigated how the incorporation of site-specific soil moisture data into the PEcAn workflow influenced the water flux outputs of ecological forecasts. Four study sites, that are a part of of the national ecological observatory network (NEON), represented varying ecosystems across the United States: a woody wetland and evergreen forest located in northern Florida (Ordway-Swisher), a sonoran desert in southern Arizona (Santa Rita), a dynamic forest with deciduous to boreal transitions in New Hampshire (Bartlett), and a native tall grass prairie in Kansas (Konza). We ran two simplified photosynthesis and evapotranspiration (SIPNET) models for each site during the month of April 2021, using site-specific ecological data with and without soil moisture information. Observed water flux outputs were analyzed using two-sample t-tests to evaluate the impact of soil moisture data on the predicted movement of water throughout each ecosystem. As this project necessitated modifications to the PEcAn workflow to improve the accuracy of its forecasts, the fruits of this study should contribute to advancements in the field of ecological forecasting.

  • Research Category: Ecological Informatics and Modelling