A steady-state approximation approach to simulate seasonal leaf dynamics of deciduous broadleaf forests via climate variables
As leaves are the basic elements of plants that conduct photosynthesis and transpiration, vegetation leaf dynamics controls canopy physical and biogeochemical processes and hence largely influences the interactive exchanges of energy and materials between the land surface and the atmosphere. Given that the processes of plant leaf allocation is highly sensitive to climatological and environmental conditions, developing robust models that simulate leaf dynamics via climate variables contributes a key component to land surface models and coupled land-atmosphere models. Here we propose a new method to simulate seasonal leaf dynamics based on the idea of applying vegetation productivity as a synthesized metric to track and assess the climate suitability to plant growth over time. The method first solves two closed simultaneous equations of leaf phenology and canopy photosynthesis as modeled using the Growing Production-Day model iteratively for deriving the time series of steady-state leaf area index (LAI), and then applies the method of simple moving average to account for the time lagging of leaf allocation behind steady-state LAI. The seasonal LAI simulated using the developed method agree with field measurements from a selection of AmeriFlux sites as indicated by high coefficient of determination (R2 = 0.801) and low root mean square error (RMSE = 0.924 m2/m2) and with satellite-derived data (R2 = 0.929 and RMSE = 0.650 m2/m2) for the studied flux tower sites. Moreover, the proposed method is able to simulate seasonal LAI of deciduous broadleaf forests that match with satellite-derived LAI time series across the entire eastern United States. Comparative modeling studies suggest that the proposed method produces more accurate results than the method based on Growing Season Index in terms of correlation coefficients and error metrics. The developed method provides a complete solution to modeling seasonal leaf dynamics as well as canopy productivity solely using climate variables.