Insights into the tussock growth form with model data fusion

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TitleInsights into the tussock growth form with model data fusion
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsCurasi, SR, Fetcher, N, Wright, KS, Weldon, DP, Rocha, AV
JournalNew Phytologist
Date Publishedjan
KeywordsLTER-ARC, model-data fusion, Tundra, tussock

Some rhizomatous grass and sedge species form tussocks that impact ecosystem structure and function. Despite their importance, tussock development and size controls are poorly understood due to the decadal to centennial timescales over which tussocks form. We explored mechanisms regulating tussock development and size in a ubiquitous arctic tussock sedge (Eriophorum vaginatum L.) using field observations and a mass balance model coupled with a tiller population model. Model data fusion was used to quantify parameter and prediction uncertainty, determine model sensitivity, and test hypotheses on the factors regulating tussock size. The model accurately captured the dynamics of tussock development, characteristics, and size observed in the field. Tussock growth approached maximal size within several decades, which was determined by feedbacks between the mass balance of tussock root necromass and density-dependent tillering. The model also predicted that maximal tussock size was primarily regulated by tiller root productivity and necromass bulk density and less so by tiller demography. These predictions were corroborated by field observations of tussock biomass and root characteristics. The study highlights the importance of belowground processes in regulating tussock development and size and enhances our understanding of the influence of tussocks on arctic ecosystem structure and function.