Comparing the performance of different stomatal conductance models using modelled and measured plant carbon isotope ratios (δ(13) C): implications for assessing physiological forcing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Accurate modelling of long-term changes in plant stomatal functioning is vital to global climate change studies because changes in evapotranspiration influence temperature via physiological forcing of the climate. Various stomatal models are included in land surface schemes, but their robustness over longer timescales is difficult to validate. We compare the performance of three stomatal models, varying in their degree of complexity, and coupled to a land surface model. This is done by simulating the carbon isotope ratio of tree leaves (δ(13) Cleaf ) over a period of 53 years, and comparing the results with carbon isotope ratios obtained from tree rings (δ(13) Cstem ) measured at six sites in northern Europe. All three stomatal models fail to capture the observed inter-annual variability in the measured δ(13) Cstem time series. However, the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere (SPA) model performs significantly better than the Ball-Berry (BB) or COX models when tested for goodness of fit against measured δ(13) Cstem . The δ(13) Cleaf time series simulated using the SPA model are significantly positively correlated (p < 0.05) with measured results over the full time period tested, at all six sites. The SPA model underestimates inter-annual variability measured in δ(13) Cstem , but is no worse than the BB model and significantly better than the COX model. The inability of current models to adequately replicate changes in stomatal response to rising levels of CO2 concentrations, and thus to quantify the associated physiological forcing, warrants further investigation. © 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


  • Per Bodin
  • M Gagen
  • D McCarroll
  • N J Loader
  • R Jalkanen
  • I Robertson
  • V R Switsur
  • J S Waterhouse
  • E J Woodley
  • G H F Young
  • P Alton
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1709-1719
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch