1 Biosystems Division. Management, Biosystems Division, Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, Technical University of Denmark2 Biosystems Division, Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, Technical University of Denmark3 Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, Technical University of Denmark4 University of Antwerp5 Max Planck Institute6 Oregon State University7 University of Tuscia8 Indiana University9 University of California10 National Institute for Agronomic Research11 Lund University12 National Research Council of Italy13 Alterra14 Harvard University15 Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark16 University College Dublin17 Lund University18 Harvard University
Quantification of an ecosystem's carbon balance and its components is pivotal for understanding both ecosystem functioning and global cycling. Several methods are being applied in parallel to estimate the different components of the CO2 balance. However, different methods are subject to different sources of error. Therefore, it is necessary that site level component estimates are cross-checked against each other before being reported. Here we present a two-step approach for testing the accuracy and consistency of eddy covariance–based gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (Re) estimates with biometric measurements of net primary production (NPP), autotrophic (Ra) and heterotrophic (Rh) respiration. The test starts with closing the CO2 balance to account for reasonable errors in each of the component fluxes. Failure to do so within the constraints will classify the flux estimates on the site level as inconsistent. If the CO2 balance can be closed, the test continues by comparing the closed site level Ra/GPP with the Rh/GPP ratio. The consistency of these ratios is then judged against expert knowledge. Flux estimates of sites that pass both steps are considered consistent. An inconsistent ratio is not necessarily incorrect but provides a signal for careful data screening that may require further analysis to identify the possible biological reasons of the unexpected ratios. We reviewed the literature and found 16 sites, out of a total of 529 research forest sites, that met the data requirements for the consistency test. Thirteen of these sites passed both steps of the consistency cross-check. Subsequently, flux ratios (NPP/GPP, Rh/NPP, Rh/Re, and Re/GPP) were calculated for the consistent sites. Similar ratios were observed at sites which lacked information to check consistency, indicating that the flux data that are currently used for validating models and testing ecological hypotheses are largely consistent across a wide range of site productivities. Confidence in the output of flux networks could be further enhanced if the required fluxes are independently estimated at all sites for multiple years and harmonized methods are used.