A new model of the coupled carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles in the terrestrial biosphere (QUINCY v1.0; revision 1996)

Tea Thum, Silvia Caldararu, Jan Engel, Melanie Kern, Marleen Pallandt, Reiner Schnur, Lin Yu, Sönke Zaehle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems are shaped by the coupled cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and these cycles are strongly dependent on the availability of water and energy. These interactions shape future terrestrial biosphere responses to global change. Here, we present a new terrestrial ecosystem model, QUINCY (QUantifying Interactions between terrestrial Nutrient CYcles and the climate system), which has been designed from scratch to allow for a seamless integration of the fully coupled carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles with each other and also with processes affecting the energy and water balances in terrestrial ecosystems. This new model includes (i) a representation of plant growth which separates source (e.g. photosynthesis) and sink (growth rate of individual tissues, constrained by temperature and the availability of water and nutrients) processes; (ii) the acclimation of many ecophysiological processes to meteorological conditions and/or nutrient availability; (iii) an explicit representation of vertical soil processes to separate litter and soil organic matter dynamics; (iv) a range of new diagnostics (leaf chlorophyll content; 13C, 14C, and 15N isotope tracers) to allow for a more in-depth model evaluation. In this paper, we present the model structure and provide an assessment of its performance against a range of observations from global-scale ecosystem monitoring networks. We demonstrate that QUINCY v1.0 is capable of simulating ecosystem dynamics across a wide climate gradient, as well as across different plant functional types. We further provide an assessment of the sensitivity of key model predictions to the model's parameterisation. This work lays the ground for future studies to test individual process hypotheses using the QUINCY v1.0 framework in the light of ecosystem manipulation observations, as well as global applications to investigate the large-scale consequences of nutrient-cycle interactions for projections of terrestrial biosphere dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4781–4802
JournalGeoscientific Model Development
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov 20
Externally publishedYes


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