Skip to main content
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Uncertainty analysis of vegetation distribution in the northern high latitudes during the 21st century with a dynamic vegetation model


Yueyang Jiang

Qianlai Zhuang

Sibyll Schaphoff

Stephen Sitch

Andrei Sokolov

David Kicklighter

Jerry Melillo

+2 more
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Ecology and Evolution


This study aims to assess how high-latitude vegetation may respond under various climate scenarios during the 21st century with a focus on analyzing model parameters induced uncertainty and how this uncertainty compares to the uncertainty induced by various climates. The analysis was based on a set of 10,000 Monte Carlo ensemble Lund-Potsdam-Jena (LPJ) simulations for the northern high latitudes (45oN and polewards) for the period 1900–2100. The LPJ Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (LPJ-DGVM) was run under contemporary and future climates from four Special Report Emission Scenarios (SRES), A1FI, A2, B1, and B2, based on the Hadley Centre General Circulation Model (GCM), and six climate scenarios, X901M, X902L, X903H, X904M, X905L, and X906H from the Integrated Global System Model (IGSM) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the current dynamic vegetation model, some parameters are more important than others in determining the vegetation distribution. Parameters that control plant carbon uptake and light-use efficiency have the predominant influence on the vegetation distribution of both woody and herbaceous plant functional types. The relative importance of different parameters varies temporally and spatially and is influenced by climate inputs. In addition to climate, these parameters play an important role in determining the vegetation distribution in the region. The parameter-based uncertainties contribute most to the total uncertainty. The current warming conditions lead to a complexity of vegetation responses in the region. Temperate trees will be more sensitive to climate variability, compared with boreal forest trees and C3 perennial grasses. This sensitivity would result in a unanimous northward greenness migration due to anomalous warming in the northern high latitudes. Temporally, boreal needleleaved evergreen plants are projected to decline considerably, and a large portion of C3 perennial grass is projected to disappear by the end of the 21st century. In contrast, the area of temperate trees would increase, especially under the most extreme A1FI scenario. As the warming continues, the northward greenness expansion in the Arctic region could continue.