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Causal Drivers of Land-Atmosphere Carbon Fluxes from Machine Learning Models and Data
  • Mozhgan A Farahani,
  • Allison Eva Goodwell
Mozhgan A Farahani
University of Colorado Denver
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Allison Eva Goodwell
University of Colorado Denver

Corresponding Author:goodwel2@illinois.edu

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Interactions among atmospheric, root-soil, and vegetation processes drive carbon dioxide fluxes (Fc) from land to atmosphere. Eddy covariance measurements are commonly used to measure Fc at sub-daily timescales and validate process-based and data-driven models. However, these validations do not reveal process interactions, thresholds, and key differences in how models replicate them. We use information theory-based measures to explore multivariate information flow pathways from forcing data to observed and modeled hourly Fc, using flux tower datasets in the Midwestern U.S. in intensively managed corn-soybean landscapes. We compare Multiple Linear Regressions (MLR), Long-Short Term Memory (LSTM), and Random Forests (RF) to evaluate how different model structures use information from combinations of sources to predict Fc. We extend a framework for model predictive performance and functional performance, which examines the full suite of dependencies from all forcing variables to the observed or modeled target. Of the three model types, RF exhibited the highest functional and predictive performance. Regionally trained models demonstrate lower predictive but higher functional performance compared to site-specific models, suggesting superior reproduction of observed relationships. This study shows that some metrics of predictive performance encapsulate functional behaviors better than others, highlighting the need for multiple metrics of both types. This study improves our understanding of carbon fluxes in an intensively managed landscape, and more generally provides insight into how model structures and forcing variables translate to interactions that are well versus poorly captured in models.
12 Sep 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
13 Sep 2023Published in ESS Open Archive