Implications of accounting for management intensity on carbon and nitrogen balances of European grasslands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


European managed grasslands are amongst the most productive in the world. Besides temperature and the amount and timing of precipitation, grass production is also highly controlled by applications of nitrogen fertilizers and land management to sustain a high productivity. Since management characteristics of pastures vary greatly across Europe, land-use intensity and their projections are critical input variables in earth system modeling when examining and predicting the effects of increasingly intensified agricultural and livestock systems on the environment. In this study, we aim to improve the representation of pastures in the dynamic global vegetation model LPJ-GUESS. This is done by incorporating daily carbon allocation for grasses as a foundation to further implement daily land management routines and land-use intensity data into the model to discriminate between intensively and extensively used regions. We further compare our new simulations with leaf area index observations, reported regional grassland productivity, and simulations conducted with the vegetation model ORCHIDEE-GM. Additionally, we analyze the implications of including pasture fertilization and daily management compared to the standard version of LPJ-GUESS. Our results demonstrate that grassland productivity cannot be adequately captured without including land-use intensity data in form of nitrogen applications. Using this type of information improved spatial patterns of grassland productivity significantly compared to standard LPJ-GUESS. In general, simulations for net primary productivity, net ecosystem carbon balance and nitrogen leaching were considerably increased in the extended version. Finally, the adapted version of LPJ-GUESS, driven with projections of climate and land-use intensity, simulated an increase in potential grassland productivity until 2050 for several agro-climatic regions, most notably for the Mediterranean North, the Mediterranean South, the Atlantic Central and the Atlantic South.


External organisations
  • Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research
  • Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0201058
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Aug 1
Publication categoryResearch

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