Isotope data improve the predictive capabilities of a marine biogeochemical model

Mesocosm experiments combined with biogeochemical modeling provide a powerful research tool to better understand marine ecosystem processes. Using an extended Nutrient-Phytoplankton-Zooplankton-Detritus (NPZD) model, we investigated the added value of stable isotope tracer additions to constrain biogeochemical transformations within a mesocosm experiment that was designed to study ocean acidification effects on the marine ecosystem. Markov-Chain Monte-Carlo simulations revealed that even when isotope data were available for the majority of the components, not all parameters in the model could be constrained by calibration. However, when isotope tracer data were deliberately excluded from the calibration, the overparameterisation was even stronger. More specifically, it led to unconstrained fluxes through the zooplankton and detritus compartment, and different relative contributions of these two compartments to phytoplankton biomass loss produced equally plausible results. It is concluded that model uncertainty due to overparameterisation can be considerably reduced by explicitly resolving stable isotope dynamics. Therefore, this mesocosm experiment has benefitted substantially from isotope tracer additions to unravel carbon cycling under varying CO2 regimes.

Van Engeland T., De Kluijver A., Soetaert K., Meysman F. J. R. & Middelburg, J. J., 2012. Isotope data improve the predictive capabilities of a marine biogeochemical model. Biogeosciences Discussions 9: 9453-9486. Article.

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