Spatially distributed biogeochemical models may be applied over grids at a range of spatial resolutions, however, evaluation of potential errors and loss of information at relatively coarse resolutions is rare. In this study, a georeferenced database at the 1-km spatial resolution was developed to initialize and drive a process-based model (Forest-BGC) of water and carbon balance over a gridded 54976 km2 area covering two river basins in mountainous western Oregon. Corresponding data sets were also prepared at 10-km and 50-km spatial resolutions using commonly employed aggregation schemes. Estimates were made at each grid cell for climate variables including daily solar radiation, air temperature, humidity, and precipitation. The topographic structure, water holding capacity, vegetation type and leaf area index were likewise estimated for initial conditions. The daily time series for the climatic drivers was developed from interpolations of meteorological station data for the water year 1990 (1 October 1989-30 September 1990). Model outputs at the 1-km resolution showed good agreement with observed patterns in runoff and productivity. The ranges for model inputs at the 10-km and 50-km resolutions tended to contract because of the smoothed topography. Estimates for mean evapotranspiration and runoff were relatively insensitive to changing the spatial resolution of the grid whereas estimates of mean annual net primary production varied by 11%. The designation of a vegetation type and leaf area at the 50-km resolution often subsumed significant heterogeneity in vegetation, and this factor accounted for much of the difference in the mean values for the carbon flux variables. Although area wide means for model outputs were generally similar across resolutions, difference maps often revealed large areas of disagreement. Relatively high spatial resolution analyses of biogeochemical cycling are desirable from several perspectives and may be particularly important in the study of the potential impacts of climate change.
Additional publication details
Comparison of alternative spatial resolutions in the application of a spatially distributed biogeochemical model over complex terrain