The interactions between climate, vegetation and fire can strongly influence the future trajectories of vegetation in Earth system models. We evaluate the relationships between tropical climate, vegetation and fire in the global vegetation model JSBACH, using a simple fire scheme and the complex fire model SPITFIRE with the aim to identify potential for model improvement. We use two remote-sensing products (based on MODIS and Landsat) in different resolutions to assess the robustness of the obtained observed relationships. We evaluate the model using a multivariate comparison that allows us to focus on the interactions between climate, vegetation and fire and test the influence of land use change on the modelled patterns. Climate-vegetation-fire relationships are known to differ between continents; we therefore perform the analysis for each continent separately.The observed relationships are similar in the two satellite data sets, but maximum tree cover is reached at higher precipitation values for coarser resolution. This shows that the spatial scale of models and data needs to be consistent for meaningful comparisons. The model captures the broad spatial patterns with regional differences, which are partly due to the climate forcing derived from an Earth system model. Compared to the simple fire scheme, SPITFIRE strongly improves the spatial pattern of burned area and the distribution of burned area along increasing precipitation. The correlation between precipitation and tree cover is higher in the observations than in the largely climate-driven vegetation model, with both fire models. The multivariate comparison identifies excessive tree cover in low-precipitation areas and a too-strong relationship between high fire occurrence and low tree cover for the complex fire model. We therefore suggest that drought effects on tree cover and the impact of burned area on tree cover or the adaptation of trees to fire can be improved.The observed variation in the relationship between precipitation and maximum tree cover between continents is higher than the simulated one. Land use contributes to the intercontinental differences in fire regimes with SPITFIRE and strongly overprints the modelled multimodality of tree cover with SPITFIRE.The multivariate model-data comparison used here has several advantages: it improves the attribution of model-data mismatches to model processes, it reduces the impact of biases in the meteorological forcing on the evaluation and it allows us to evaluate not only a specific target variable but also the interactions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Earth-Surface Processes