Diagram showing nitrogen transformations.
The many transformations of nitrogen (N) involved in soils include multiple chemical species formed during the processes of nitrification and denitrification. Process models simulate these transformations and how they respond to soil environmental conditions. As models conserve mass, they track all nitrogen forms and processes. However only a subset of what is tracked is easily measurable in the field. Thus, model publications often report results only for commonly measurable N species, for example those identified with red text. Credit: Adapted from Davidson et al. [2000]
Editors’ Highlights are summaries of recent papers by AGU’s journal editors.
Source: AGU Advances

Biogeochemical models that track elements as they transit land ecosystem must simulate often complex chemical transformations. For nitrogen (N), these transformations include changes from soluble ions like nitrate (NO3) to gases like nitrous oxide (N2O). While models must track all N species to conserve mass, field data commonly are limited to a subset of more easily measured compounds. Thus, publications based on models often do not report all species and fluxes, just ones that can be tested against measurements.

Grosz et al. [2023] make a case for modelers to publish all model elements by giving examples where measured fluxes could be matched by models for the wrong reasons. While storing all model predicted parameters can be computationally expensive, the authors point out that unreported model results could point to knowledge gaps and stimulate new research, for other elements in addition to N.

Citation: Grosz, B., Matson, A., Butterbach-Bahl, K., Clough, T., Davidson, E. A., Dechow, R., et al. (2023). Modeling denitrification: Can we report what we don’t know? AGU Advances, 4, e2023AV000990. https://doi.org/10.1029/2023AV000990

—Susan Trumbore, Editor in Chief, AGU Advances

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