UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Advantages of diffuse radiation for terrestrial ecosystem productivity Verma, Shashi B.; Baldocchi, Dennis; Gu, Lianhong; Vesala, TImo; Black, T. Andrew; Dowty, Peter R.; Falge, Eva M.


Clouds and aerosols alter the proportion of diffuse radiation in global solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface. It is known that diffuse and direct beam radiation differ in the way they transfer through plant canopies and affect the summation of nonlinear processes like photosynthesis differently than what would occur at the leaf scale. We compared the relative efficiencies of canopy photosynthesis to diffuse and direct photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) for a Scots pine forest, an aspen forest, a mixed deciduous forest, a tallgrass prairie and a winter wheat crop. The comparison was based on the seasonal patterns of the parameters that define the canopy photosynthetic responses to diffuse PAR and those that define the responses to direct PAR. These parameters were inferred from half-hourly tower CO2 flux measurements. We found that: (1) diffuse radiation results in higher light use efficiencies by plant canopies; (2) diffuse radiation has much less tendency to cause canopy photosynthetic saturation; (3) the advantages of diffuse radiation over direct radiation increase with radiation level; (4) temperature as well as vapor pressure deficit can cause different responses in diffuse and direct canopy photosynthesis, indicating that their impacts on terrestrial ecosystem carbon assimilation may depend on radiation regimes and thus sky conditions. These findings call for different treatments of diffuse and direct radiation in models of global primary production, and studies of the roles of clouds and aerosols in global carbon cycle. An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2002 American Geophysical Union.

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