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Natascha Kljun. Photo.

Natascha Kljun


Natascha Kljun. Photo.

Spatial representativeness and uncertainty of eddy covariance carbon flux measurements for upscaling net ecosystem productivity to the grid scale


  • Youhua Ran
  • Xin Li
  • Rui Sun
  • Natascha Kljun
  • Lei Zhang
  • Xuefeng Wang
  • Gaofeng Zhu

Summary, in English

Eddy covariance (EC) measurements are often used to validate net ecosystem productivity (NEP) estimated from satellite remote sensing data and biogeochemical models. However, EC measurements represent an integrated flux over their footprint area, which usually differs from respective model grids or remote sensing pixels. Quantifying the uncertainties of scale mismatch associated with gridded flux estimates by upscaling single EC tower NEP measurements to the grid scale is an important but not yet fully investigated issue due to limited data availability as well as knowledge of flux variability at the grid scale. The Heihe Watershed Allied Telemetry Experimental Research (HiWATER) Multi-Scale Observation Experiment on Evapotranspiration (MUSOEXE) built a flux observation matrix that includes 17 EC towers within a 5 km × 5 km area in a heterogeneous agricultural landscape in northwestern China, providing an unprecedented opportunity to evaluate the uncertainty of upscaling due to spatial representative differences at the grid scale. Based on the HiWATER-MUSOEXE data, this study evaluated the spatial representativeness and uncertainty of EC CO2 flux measurements for upscaling to the grid scale using a scheme that combines a footprint model and a model-data fusion method. The results revealed the large spatial variability of gross primary productivity (GPP), ecosystem respiration (Re), and NEP within the study site during the growing season from 10 June to 14 September 2012. The variability of fluxes led to high variability in the representativeness of single EC towers for grid-scale NEP. The systematic underestimations of a single EC tower may reach 92(±11)%, 30(±11)%, and 165(±150)% and the overestimations may reach 25(±14)%, 20(±13)%, and 40(±33)% for GPP, Re, and NEP, respectively. This finding suggests that remotely sensed NEP at the global scale (e.g., MODIS products) should not be validated against single EC tower data in the case of heterogeneous surfaces. Any systematic bias should be addressed before upscaling EC data to grid scale. Otherwise, most of the systematic bias may be propagated to grid scale due to the scale dependence of model parameters. A systematic bias greater than 20% of the EC measurements can be corrected effectively using four indicators proposed in this study. These results will contribute to the understanding of spatial representativeness of EC towers within a heterogeneous landscape, to upscaling carbon fluxes from the footprint to the grid scale, to the selection of the location of EC towers, and to the reduction in the bias of NEP products by using an improved parameterization scheme of remote-sensing driven models, such as VPRM.

Publishing year







Agricultural and Forest Meteorology



Document type

Journal article




  • Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences


  • Ecosystem fluxes
  • Scale dependence
  • Remote sensing
  • Heterogeneous agricultural landscape
  • Footprint model




  • ISSN: 1873-2240