The merits and possible problems of the light use efficiency-concept based GPP/NPP models applied together with satellite images and meteorological data to quantitatively understand the role of different meteorological factors in forest productivity are analysed. A concept of the complex meteorological limiting factor for plant productivity is introduced. The factor includes the effects of incoming photosynthetically active radiation as well as the temperature and water limiting factors. Climatologically averaged seasonal courses of the complex meteorological limiting factor derived from the records of two contrasting meteorological stations in Estonia - inland Tartu/Tõravere and coastal Sõrve - are shown. Leaf phenology, here described via the seasonal course of leaf area index (LAI), is interpreted as a possible means to maximise the carbon gain under particular meteorological conditions. The equations for the optimum seasonal course of LAI as derived from the NPP model are presented. As the daily adjustment of plant LAI to sudden changes in meteorological conditions is not possible, several approximate strategies for LAI seasonal course to maximise the yearly NPP of vegetation are analysed. Typical optimal courses of LAI show some seasonal asymmetry resulting in lower values of LAI in the second half of the vegetation period due to higher air temperatures and respiration costs. Knowledge about optimum LAI courses has a cognitive value, but can also be used as the simulated LAI courses in several models when the measured LAI values are not available. As the considered GPP/NPP models fail to adequately describe the local trends in forest and agricultural productivity in Estonia, the ways to improve the model’s performance are shown.
A light use efficiency (LUE) type model named EST_PP to simulate the yearly gross primary production (GPP) and net primary production (NPP) of Estonian land on a 1 km2 grid is described. The model is based on MERIS (MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) satellite images to describe the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation (fAPAR) and leaf area index (LAI) as well as meteorological reanalysis datasets on 11 km2 grid produced by Estonian Meteorological Institute (EMHI) and Tartu University (TU) by means of the HIRLAM (High Resolution Limited Area Model) numerical weather prediction model. The land cover map of Estonia needed for the model was derived using DMCii (Disaster Monitoring Constellation International Imaging) SLIM-6-22 (Surrey Linear Imager - 6 channel - 22 m resolution) images and ancillary information. The EST_PP model was run for the period from years 2003 to 2011. The results of GPP and NPP simulation are compared with the available global MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) GPP/NPP product and with the Estonian statistical data on yearly volume increment in forests and on yield of agricultural crops. The NPP simulation results on coniferous and deciduous forests are compared with the data from tree ring analyses from different counties. These comparisons show us that the simulated country average yearly NPP values for Estonian forests agree reasonably well with the indirect estimates from other sources, taking into account the rather high uncertainty of the model predictions, uncertainty of forest inventory-based estimates and limited representativity of existing tree ring data. However, problems arise with the ability of present versions of EST_PP and MODIS NPP models to adequately simulate the regional differences of productivity and of variability of productivity in different years. The model needs some modification and the basic LUE principles to be tested in Estonia. Nevertheless, the MODIS NPP and EST_PP models offer additional possibilities to map yearly productivity and carbon sequestration by Estonian vegetation. There is a perspective to add the model-simulated NPP values into the national inventory datasets.