The Amazon Basin cycles more water through streamflow and evaporation than any other contiguous forest in the world, and transpiration by trees is a critical part of this cycle. Understanding how plant roots, stems, and leaves interact with soil water to regulate forest transpiration across landscapes is a critical knowledge gap, especially as climate changes. Professor Valeriy Ivanov, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at U-M, is the lead investigator in a newly NSF funded project that links diverse disciplines – plant ecophysiology, ecology, and hydrology – and will build a unique modeling framework to characterize landscape variation in physiological and hydrological processes in the Amazon Basin. The framework will integrate a wide array of field observations with detailed watershed modeling for hypothesis testing. The team includes Tyeen Taylor, research fellow also from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at U-M, and many collaborators in the U.S. at the University of Arizona, University of West Virginia, University of Nebraska, as well as Brazilian researchers at the Federal University of Eastern Para, and Federal University of Amazonas, National Institute for Amazonian Research, and Eastern Amazon Agricultural Agency. Detailed, physical models of ecophysiology and above- and below-ground hydrology will be informed by observations of leaf physiology, tree morphological traits, soil moisture, groundwater, and streamflow. Data and models will be integrated employing novel tools in probabilistic learning and uncertainty quantification. The computational framework tools to be used in this project were developed in part with the support from MICDE Catalyst grant program for the 2018 project “Urban Flood Modeling at “Human Action” Scale: Harnessing the Power of Reduced-Order Approaches and Uncertainty Quantification” led by Prof. Ivanov. 

Given (a) a mechanistic model M (e.g., a stomatal conductance model), (b) one can treat its inputs 𝛏 (e.g., parameters) as random variables. These inputs are sampled and model simulations are carried out. Using (c) PCEs, we construct a surrogate model that best approximates the model output – left-hand-side of (c). The surrogate is then evaluated with Monte Carlo simulations and used for (d) parameter inference. (d.1) is the flow of outputs from the surrogate model into a likelihood function L (D | 𝛏) to compare the surrogate model output and observed data D. This inference produces the posterior distribution for 𝛏. This pdf can then be sent back to the surrogate in (d.2) to reduce the uncertainty in the inputs and to obtain pdf for a quantity of interest (e).

“The reduced-ordered modeling approach developed during the MICDE Catalyst grant project is a key element of the new project,” said Prof. Ivanov, “the MICDE seed funding has allowed us to build a general framework that is applicable to a wide range of computational applications in earth-system science, and thus made our project proposal more competitive”.

The MICDE Catalyst Grants program funds projects that have the potential to catalyze and reorient the directions of their research fields by developing and harnessing powerful paradigms of computational science. This new NSF project is an example of the reach of the program.

Read more.