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Bayesian calibration of the nitrous oxide emission module of an agro-ecosystem model

By S. Lehuger, B. Gabrielle, M. Van Oijen, D. Makowski, J.-C. Germon, T. Morvan and C. Hénault


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the main biogenic greenhouse gas contributing to the global warming potential\ud (GWP) of agro-ecosystems. Evaluating the impact of agriculture on climate therefore requires a capacity\ud to predict N2O emissions in relation to environmental conditions and crop management. Biophysical\ud models simulating the dynamics of carbon and nitrogen in agro-ecosystems have a unique potential to\ud explore these relationships, but are fraught with high uncertainties in their parameters due to their\ud variations over time and space. Here, we used a Bayesian approach to calibrate the parameters of the N2O\ud submodel of the agro-ecosystem model CERES-EGC. The submodel simulates N2O emissions from the\ud nitrification and denitrification processes, which are modelled as the product of a potential rate with\ud three dimensionless factors related to soil water content, nitrogen content and temperature. These\ud equations involve a total set of 15 parameters, four of which are site-specific and should be measured on\ud site, while the other 11 are considered global, i.e. invariant over time and space. We first gathered prior\ud information on the model parameters based on the literature review, and assigned them uniform\ud probability distributions. A Bayesian method based on the Metropolis–Hastings algorithm was\ud subsequently developed to update the parameter distributions against a database of seven different\ud field-sites in France. Three parallel Markov chains were run to ensure a convergence of the algorithm.\ud This site-specific calibration significantly reduced the spread in parameter distribution, and the\ud uncertainty in the N2O simulations. The model’s root mean square error (RMSE) was also abated by 73%\ud across the field sites compared to the prior parameterization. The Bayesian calibration was subsequently\ud applied simultaneously to all data sets, to obtain better global estimates for the parameters initially\ud deemed universal. This made it possible to reduce the RMSE by 33% on average, compared to the\ud uncalibrated model. These global parameter values may be used to obtain more realistic estimates of\ud N2O emissions from arable soils at regional or continental scales

Topics: Agriculture and Soil Science, Ecology and Environment
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.agee.2009.04.022
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