GFDL - Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

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GFDL Biogeochemistry, Ecosystems and Climate Group

The goal/mission of the GFDL Biogeochemistry, Ecosystems and Climate group supports NOAA’s mission of science, service and stewardship by developing GFDL’s Earth System Models, researching biospheric processes and mechanisms, conducting observational synthesis and analysis, and interacting broadly across many disciplines to understand and predict interactions among human activities, ecosystems, biogeochemistry, and climate.

The group's vision is for a society informed about environmental change and ecological impacts through improved scientific understanding of past, present and future interactions among human activities, ecosystems, biogeochemistry, and climate.

Biogeochemistry involves the study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes that govern the earth as a system through the cycles of chemical elements, such as carbon and nitrogen.

An ecosystem is a natural unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms (biotic factors) in an area functioning together with all of the non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment.

Research Projects

Develop Improved & More Comprehensive Earth System Models

All models are not perfect. Therefore, we are constantly trying to evaluate the Earth System Model simulation and find ways to improve it. Model improvement normally occurs in three main ways which we are exploring. One is by increasing the model resolution. Another is by developing a more comprehensive model. The third way is by improving the physical parameterizations in the model.

Use Earth System Models to Study the Impact of Climate Change on Ecosystems

Climate variability and change can impact ecosystems and the animals and plants within them in many ways. For example, on long time scales forests may transition into grasslands or certain species of fish may change location due to climate change. In order to understand climate variability and change in the physical climate system and ecosystems, Earth System Models need to be developed and applied to these issues.

Use Earth System Models to Study the Impact of Ecosystem Changes on Climate

It has been long recognized that both land and ocean biology can impact the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by taking up and releasing CO2. Earth System Models have been developed to simulate changes in ecosystems (and the associated carbon fluxes) and compute the resulting changes in the physical climate system.

Evaluate the Global Scale Impact of Human Activities on Ecosystems

As humans change the chemical composition of the atmosphere and ocean, these activities can directly impact ecosystems. Fire, ocean acidification, and land use are all examples of these types of activities. These activities and their feedbacks may or may not impact climate.

Featured Results

Dynamic Vegetation and Carbon Cycle Model

We have developed a dynamic land model (LM3V) able to simulate ecosystem dynamics and exchanges of water, energy and CO2 between land and atmosphere. LM3V is specifically designed to address the consequences of land-use/land-management changes including cropland and pasture dynamics, shifting cultivation, logging, fire, and resulting patterns of secondary regrowth. Our process-based model suggests a smaller net deforestation source than earlier bookkeeping models because it accounts for decelerated net conversion of primary forest to agriculture and for stronger secondary vegetation regrowth in tropical regions. The overall uncertainty is likely to be higher than the range reported here because of uncertainty in the biomass recovery under changing ambient conditions, including atmospheric CO2 concentration, nutrients availability and climate. Shevliakova et. al. 2009.