Biogeosciences (Nov 2010)

McGill wetland model: evaluation of a peatland carbon simulator developed for global assessments

  • F. St-Hilaire,
  • J. Wu,
  • N. T. Roulet,
  • S. Frolking,
  • P. M. Lafleur,
  • E. R. Humphreys,
  • V. Arora

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 11
pp. 3517 – 3530


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We developed the McGill Wetland Model (MWM) based on the general structure of the Peatland Carbon Simulator (PCARS) and the Canadian Terrestrial Ecosystem Model. Three major changes were made to PCARS: (1) the light use efficiency model of photosynthesis was replaced with a biogeochemical description of photosynthesis; (2) the description of autotrophic respiration was changed to be consistent with the formulation of photosynthesis; and (3) the cohort, multilayer soil respiration model was changed to a simple one box peat decomposition model divided into an oxic and anoxic zones by an effective water table, and a one-year residence time litter pool. MWM was then evaluated by comparing its output to the estimates of net ecosystem production (NEP), gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) from 8 years of continuous measurements at the Mer Bleue peatland, a raised ombrotrophic bog located in southern Ontario, Canada (index of agreement [dimensionless]: NEP = 0.80, GPP = 0.97, ER = 0.97; systematic RMSE [g C m<sup>−2</sup> d<sup>−1</sup>]: NEP = 0.12, GPP = 0.07, ER = 0.14; unsystematic RMSE: NEP = 0.15, GPP = 0.27, ER = 0.23). Simulated moss NPP approximates what would be expected for a bog peatland, but shrub NPP appears to be underestimated. Sensitivity analysis revealed that the model output did not change greatly due to variations in water table because of offsetting responses in production and respiration, but that even a modest temperature increase could lead to converting the bog from a sink to a source of CO<sub>2</sub>. General weaknesses and further developments of MWM are discussed.