Woody residence time (τw) is an important parameter that expresses the balance between mature forest recruitment/growth and mortality. Using field data collected from the literature, this study explored the global forest τw and investigated its influence on model simulations of aboveground biomass (AGB) at a global scale. Specifically, τw was found to be related to forest age, annual temperature, and precipitation at a global scale, but its determinants were different among various plant function types. The estimated global forest τw based on the filed data showed large spatial heterogeneity, which plays an important role in model simulation of AGB by a dynamic global vegetation model (DGVM). The τw could change the resulting AGB in tenfold based on a site-level test using the Monte Carlo method. At the global level, different parameterization schemes of the Integrated Biosphere Simulator using the estimated τw resulted in a twofold change in the AGB simulation for 2100. Our results highlight the influences of various biotic and abiotic variables on forest τw. The estimation of τw in our study may help improve the model simulations and reduce the parameter's uncertainty over the projection of future AGB in the current DGVM or Earth System Models. A clearer understanding of the responses of τw to climate change and the corresponding sophisticated description of forest growth/mortality in model structure is also needed for the improvement of carbon stock prediction in future studies.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Global Biogeochemical Cycles


American Geophysical Union (AGU)

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©2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


This is an article published by AGU in Global Biogeochemical Cycles in 2017, available online: