Coupled terrestrial carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and hydrological processes play a crucial role in the climate system, providing both positive and negative feedbacks to climate change. In this review we summarize published research results to gain an increased understanding of the dynamics between vegetation and atmosphere processes. A variety of methods, including monitoring (e.g., eddy covariance flux tower, remote sensing, etc.) and modeling (i.e., ecosystem, hydrology and atmospheric inversion modeling) the terrestrial carbon and water budgeting, are evaluated and compared. We highlight two major research areas where additional research could be focused: (i) Conceptually, the hydrological and biogeochemical processes are closely linked, however, the coupling processes between terrestrial C, N and hydrological processes are far from well understood; and (ii) there are significant uncertainties in estimates of the components of the C balance, especially at landscape and regional scales. To address these two questions, a synthetic research framework is needed which includes both bottom-up and top-down approaches integrating scalable (footprint and ecosystem) models and a spatially nested hierarchy of observations which include multispectral remote sensing, inventories, existing regional clusters of eddy-covariance flux towers and CO2
mixing ratio towers and chambers.