Stevens, D; Miranda, PMA; Orth, R; Boussetta, S; Balsamo, G; Dutra, E (2020). Sensitivity of Surface Fluxes in the ECMWF Land Surface Model to the Remotely Sensed Leaf Area Index and Root Distribution: Evaluation with Tower Flux Data. ATMOSPHERE, 11(12), 1362.

The surface-atmosphere turbulent exchanges couple the water, energy and carbon budgets in the Earth system. The biosphere plays an important role in the evaporation process, and vegetation related parameters such as the leaf area index (LAI), vertical root distribution and stomatal resistance are poorly constrained due to sparse observations at the spatio-temporal scales at which land surface models (LSMs) operate. In this study, we use the Carbon Hydrology Tiled European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Scheme for Surface Exchanges over Land (CHTESSEL) model and investigate the sensitivity of the simulated turbulent fluxes to these vegetation related parameters. Observed data from 17 FLUXNET towers were used to force and evaluate model simulations with different vegetation parameter configurations. The replacement of the current LAI climatology used by CHTESSEL, by a new high-resolution climatology, representative of the station's location, has a small impact on the simulated fluxes. Instead, a revision of the root profile considering a uniform root distribution reduces the underestimation of evaporation during water stress conditions. Despite the limitations of using only one model and a limited number of stations, our results highlight the relevance of root distribution in controlling soil moisture stress, which is likely to be applicable to other LSMs.