Modeling pre-settlement forests

“[L]ike many areas of climate change science, but unlike most areas of ecology, the understanding of biosphere-atmosphere interactions fundamentally relies on the predictions of large, complex models whose parameters are difficult to measure, and that make predictions at scales far larger than we are typically able to make measurements. As a result, the findings of terrestrial biosphere modeling studies are usually appropriately couched in terms of ‘potential feedback mechanisms’. Indeed, a harsh, but not entirely unwarranted, view would be that our current understanding of biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks is a collection of interesting, but largely untested, hypotheses for the future state of terrestrial ecosystems and climate.” – Moorcroft et al. (2006)


The goal of PalEON is to allow data to inform our models of long-term ecosystem change. There are three fundamental objectives for bringing historical data and models together:

  1. Validation – How do the models we use to predict future responses to climate change perform when confronted with past climate change? Are we able to capture dynamics correctly and, if not, can we understand why?
  2. Inference – Paleo proxies only provide partial information about ecosystem dynamics, but models allow us to estimate the possible ranges for unobserved quantities that are consistent with the observed data. For example, what net carbon fluxes are compatible with an observed species composition and fire return interval? Estimates such as these provide a pre-settlement baseline from which we can judge current dynamics.
  3. Initialization – Projections of the future are made conditioned on the present, but key ecosystem and biogeochemical variables, such as soil carbon, strongly reflect site history across centennial to millennial time scales. Due to an absence of data, equilibrium assumptions for model initialization are common, but are clearly untenable. Paleo-data provide the history necessary to understand the present and predict the future.

Modeling Teams

Below are the current project participants who are working together to design and implement the modeling protocols for PalEON.


CLM Dave Moore University of Arizona
Yao Liu University of Arizona
Dan Ricciuto Oak Ridge National Laboratory
CLM-ED Yao Liu University of Arizona
Rosie Fisher National Center for Atrmospherica Research
ED2 Mike Dietze Boston University
Christy Rollinson Boston University
JULES/JULES TRIFFID Tristan Quaife University of Reading
LINKAGES Ann Raiho University of Notre Dame
LPJ-GUESS Thomas Hickler University of Lund
Jörg Steinkamp University of Lund
LPJ-WSL Ben Poulter Montana State University
SIB-CASA Kevin Schaefer National Snow and Ice Data Center
TECO Yiqi Luo University of Oklahoma

Recent Posts

PalEON at AGU 2016

If you are going to AGU this year make sure to stop by and check out what PalEON has been working on!

AGU 2016 PalEON schedule color coded by day with lighter colors being posters, darker colors talks

AGU 2016 PalEON schedule color coded by day with lighter colors being posters, darker colors talks

  1. Expert Elicitation to Interpret Pollen Data Leave a reply
  2. Synthesizing Fire-History Records to Understand Fire-Regime Variability Across Alaska 1 Reply
  3. Science at Notre Dame Leave a reply
  4. Empirically Reconstructing Biophysics with Remote Sensing Data Leave a reply
  5. 2015 AGU PalEON Talks & Poster Schedule Leave a reply
  6. Reconstructing Multivariate Climate Using A Mechanistic Tree Ring Model Leave a reply
  7. PalEON at ESA and JSM 2015 Leave a reply
  8. Models Part 3: Using Ecosystem Models to Advance Ecology Leave a reply
  9. A Living Forest Leave a reply
  10. Huron Mountain Wildlife Leave a reply
  11. Models Part 2: A Day in the Life of an Ecological Modeler Leave a reply
  12. Models Part 1: The PalEON Model Inter-Comparison Project Comes to Life Leave a reply
  13. Edge of the Prairie Leave a reply
  14. Pollen Dispersal II: Quantitative Reconstructions Leave a reply
  15. 2014 AGU PalEON Talks & Poster Schedule Leave a reply
  16. In a New Light 1 Reply
  17. Pollen Dispersal I: Why We Get Sediment Pollen Leave a reply
  18. Underwater In New England Leave a reply
  19. The Magic of Science is its Complexity 1 Reply
  20. Big process, small data: Reconstructing climate from historical U.S. fort data Leave a reply
  21. Quaternary Science . . . on Mars . . . three billion years ago. Leave a reply
  22. Camp PEON Day 6: LAST DAY Leave a reply
  23. Camp PEON Days 4 & 5: DATA ASSIMILATION! Leave a reply
  25. Day 2 of Camp PEON: TREE RINGS Leave a reply
  26. Day 1 of Camp PEON: WORKING ON THE FROZEN FINGER! Leave a reply
  27. Maine Fieldwork Part 2: The Bog Leave a reply
  28. PalEON Sessions at AGU, December 15-19, 2014 Leave a reply
  29. You Are Suffering For the Greater Good of Science Leave a reply
  30. Sneak Peek at Results for Tree Composition Pre-Euro-American Settlement (ca. 1700-1850 AD) Leave a reply
  31. PalEON on TV Leave a reply
  32. Self thin you must Leave a reply
  33. Forests in a Changing Climate Leave a reply
  34. Macrosystems Ecology: The More We Know The Less We Know. Leave a reply
  35. PEONs at AGU Leave a reply
  36. The Invasion of the Zombie Maples Leave a reply
  37. PalEON Goes Into the Field Leave a reply
  38. The Prairie Peninsula Leave a reply
  39. Update: Down-scaled Meteorological Drivers Leave a reply