Submitted to: Science of the Total Environment
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/22/2013
Publication Date: 7/13/2013
Citation: Zhang, X., Izaurralde, R.C., Arnold, J.G., Williams, J.R. 2013. Modifying SWAT to simulate cropland carbon flux: Model development and initial evaluation. Science of the Total Environment. 463-464C:810-822. Interpretive Summary: Climate change is a compelling modern issue that has important implications for almost every aspect of natural and human systems. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) has been applied worldwide to support sustainable water management and crop production under changing climate conditions as evidenced by more than 200 related articles in the refereed literature. However, the carbon module in SWAT was inadequate for climate change analysis, and in this study we incorporated the CENTURY carbon model into SWAT. CENTURY simulates land-atmosphere carbon exchange and soil organic matter dynamics. The new linked model was tested at six sites across the Midwest U.S. and was shown to realistically simulate evapotranspiration and carbon fluxes from the land surface to the atmosphere at each site. Although the new model requires further testing and refinement, it was shown to be a potentially valuable tool for determining the input of climate change on carbon dynamics across large regions with complex landscapes.
Technical Abstract: Climate change is one of the most compelling modern issues and has important implications for almost every aspect of natural and human systems. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model has been applied worldwide to support sustainable land and water management in a changing climate. However, the inadequacies of the existing carbon algorithm in SWAT limit its application in assessing impacts of human activities on CO2 emission, one important source of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) that traps heat in the earth system and results in global warming. In this research, we incorporate a revised version of the CENTURY carbon model into SWAT to describe dynamics of soil organic matter (SOM)-residue and simulate land-atmosphere carbon exchange. We test this new SWAT-C model with daily eddy covariance (EC) observations of net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and evapotranspiration (ET) and annual crop yield at six sites across the U.S. Midwest. Results show that SWAT-C simulates well multi-year average NEE and ET across the spatially distributed sites and capture the majority of temporal variation of these two variables at a daily time scale at each site. Our analyses also reveal that performance of SWAT-C is influenced by multiple factors, such as crop management practices (irrigated vs. rainfed), completeness and accuracy of input data, crop species, and initialization of state variables. Overall, the new SWAT-C demonstrates favorable performance for simulating land-atmosphere carbon exchange across agricultural sites with different soils, climate, and management practices. SWAT-C is expected to serve as a useful tool for including carbon flux into consideration in sustainable watershed management under a changing climate. We also note that extensive assessment of SWAT-C with field observations is required for further improving the model and understanding potential uncertainties of applying it across large regions with complex landscapes.