Cycles-L: A coupled, 3-D, land surface, hydrologic, and agroecosystem landscape model

Shi, Y., F. Montes, and A. R. Kemanian

Published in Water Resources Research, 2023

Managing landscapes to increase agricultural productivity and environmental stewardship can be informed by spatially-distributed models that operate at spatial and temporal scales that are intervention-relevant. This paper presents Cycles-L, a landscape-scale agroecosystem and hydrologic modeling system, using as a test case a watershed in Pennsylvania. Cycles-L emerges from melding the landscape and hydrology structure of Flux-PIHM, a 3-D land surface hydrologic model, with the agroecosystem processes in the Cycles model. Consequently, Cycles-L can simulate processes affected by topography, soil heterogeneity, and management practices, owing to its physically-based hydrology that can simulate horizontal and vertical transport of solutes with water. The model was tested at a 730-ha experimental watershed within the Mahantango Creek watershed. Cycles-L simulated well stream water and mineral nitrogen discharge (Nash-Sutcliffe coefficient 0.55 and 0.60, respectively) and grain yield (root mean square error 1.2 Mg ha−1). Cycles-L outputs are as good or better than those obtained with the uncoupled Flux-PIHM (water discharge) and Cycles (grain yield) models. Modeled spatial patterns of nitrogen fluxes like denitrification illustrate the combined control of crop management and topography. For example, denitrification is almost twice as high when simulated with Cycles-L than when simulated with Cycles 1-D. Due to its spatial and temporal resolution, Cycles-L fills a gap in the availability of models that operate at a scale relevant to evaluate interventions in the landscape. Cycles-L can become a central component in tools for climate change scenario analysis, precision agriculture, precision conservation, and artificial intelligence-based decision support systems.