Articles | Volume 16, issue 8
Research article
23 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 23 Aug 2012

Development and evaluation of a global dynamical wetlands extent scheme

T. Stacke and S. Hagemann

Abstract. In this study we present the development of the dynamical wetland extent scheme (DWES) and evaluate its skill to represent the global wetland distribution. The DWES is a simple, global scale hydrological scheme that solves the water balance of wetlands and estimates their extent dynamically. The extent depends on the balance of water flows in the wetlands and the slope distribution within the grid cells. In contrast to most models, the DWES is not directly calibrated against wetland extent observations. Instead, wetland affected river discharge data are used to optimise global parameters of the model. The DWES is not a complete hydrological model by itself but implemented into the Max Planck Institute – Hydrology Model (MPI-HM). However, it can be transferred into other models as well.

For present climate, the model evaluation reveals a good agreement for the spatial distribution of simulated wetlands compared to different observations on the global scale. The best results are achieved for the Northern Hemisphere where not only the wetland distribution pattern but also their extent is simulated reasonably well by the DWES. However, the wetland fraction in the tropical parts of South America and Central Africa is strongly overestimated. The simulated extent dynamics correlate well with monthly inundation variations obtained from satellites for most locations. Also, the simulated river discharge is affected by wetlands resulting in a delay and mitigation of peak flows. Compared to simulations without wetlands, we find locally increased evaporation and decreased river flow into the oceans due to the implemented wetland processes.

In summary, the evaluation demonstrates the DWES' ability to simulate the distribution of wetlands and their seasonal variations for most regions. Thus, the DWES can provide hydrological boundary conditions for wetland related studies. In future applications, the DWES may be implemented into an Earth system model to study feedbacks between wetlands and climate.