The carbon balance of European croplands: A cross-site comparison of simulation models

Martin Wattenbach, Oliver Sus, Nicolas Vuichard, Simon Lehuger, Pia Gottschalk, Longhui Li, Adrian Leip, Mathew Williams, Enrico Tomelleri, Werner Leo Kutsch, Nina Buchmann, Werner Eugster, Dominique Dietiker, Marc Aubinet, Eric Ceschia, Pierre Béziat, Thomas Grünwald, Astley Francis St John Hastings, Bruce Osborne, Philippe CiaisPierre Cellier, Pete Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Croplands cover approximately 45% of Europe and play an important role in the overall carbon budget of the continent. However, the estimation of their carbon balance remains uncertain due to the diversity of crops and cropping systems together with the strong influence of human management. Here, we present a multi-site model comparison for four cropland ecosystem models namely the DNDC, ORCHIDEE-STICS, CERES-EGC and SPA models. We compare the accuracy of the models in predicting net ecosystem exchange (NEE), gross primary production (GPP), ecosystem respiration (R-eco) as well as actual evapo-transpiration (ETa) for winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L) and maize (Zea mays L) derived from eddy covariance measurements on five sites along a gradient of climatic conditions from eastern to southwesterly Europe. The models are all able to simulate daily GPP. The simulation results for daily ETa and R-eco are, however, less accurate. The resulting simulation of daily NEE is adequate except in some cases where models fail due to a lack in phase and amplitude alignment. ORCHIDEE-STICS and SPA show the best performance. Nevertheless, they are not able to simulate full crop rotations or the multiple management practices used. CERES-EGC, and especially DNDC, although exhibiting a lower level of model accuracy, are able to simulate such conditions, resulting in more accurate simulation of annual cumulative NEE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-453
Number of pages35
JournalAgriculture Ecosystems & Environment
Issue number3
Early online date25 Sep 2010
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2010


  • cropland
  • crop
  • Eddy flux
  • carbon
  • CO2
  • modelling
  • net ecosystem exchange
  • water-use efficiency
  • drained Illinois Agroecosystems
  • Eddy-covariance measurements
  • locally weighted regression
  • long-term experiments
  • nitrous-oxide
  • DNDC model
  • terrestrial ecosystems
  • management alternatives


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