Ecosystem modeling can help decision making regarding planting of urban trees for climate change mitigation and air pollution reduction. Algorithms and models that link the properties of plant functional types, species groups, or single species to their impact on specific ecosystem services have been developed. However, these models require a considerable effort for initialization that is inherently related to uncertainties originating from the high diversity of plant species in urban areas. We therefore suggest a new automated method to be used with the i-Tree Eco model to derive light competition for individual trees and investigate the importance of this property. Since competition depends also on the species, which is difficult to determine from increasingly used remote sensing methodologies, we also investigate the impact of uncertain tree species classification on the ecosystem services by comparing a species-specific inventory determined by field observation with a genus-specific categorization and a model initialization for the dominant deciduous and evergreen species only. Our results show how the simulation of competition affects the determination of carbon sequestration, leaf area, and related ecosystem services and that the proposed method provides a tool for improving estimations. Misclassifications of tree species can lead to large deviations in estimates of ecosystem impacts, particularly concerning biogenic volatile compound emissions. In our test case, monoterpene emissions almost doubled and isoprene emissions decreased to less than 10% when species were estimated to belong only to either two groups instead of being determined by species or genus. It is discussed that this uncertainty of emission estimates propagates further uncertainty in the estimation of potential ozone formation. Overall, we show the importance of using an individual light competition approach and explicitly parameterizing all ecosystem functions at the species-specific level.
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