skip to main content

Title: Poor relationships between NEON Airborne Observation Platform data and field‐based vegetation traits at a mesic grassland
Understanding spatial and temporal variation in plant traits is needed to accurately predict how communities and ecosystems will respond to global change. The National Ecological Observatory Network’s (NEON’s) Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) provides hyperspectral images and associated data products at numerous field sites at 1 m spatial resolution, potentially allowing high-resolution trait mapping. We tested the accuracy of readily available data products of NEON’s AOP, such as Leaf Area Index (LAI), Total Biomass, Ecosystem Structure (Canopy height model [CHM]), and Canopy Nitrogen, by comparing them to spatially extensive field measurements from a mesic tallgrass prairie. Correlations with AOP data products exhibited generally weak or no relationships with corresponding field measurements. The strongest relationships were between AOP LAI and ground-measured LAI (r = 0.32) and AOP Total Biomass and ground-measured biomass (r = 0.23). We also examined how well the full reflectance spectra (380–2,500 nm), as opposed to derived products, could predict vegetation traits using partial least-squares regression (PLSR) models. Among all the eight traits examined, only Nitrogen had a validation 𝑅2 R 2 of more than 0.25. For all vegetation traits, validation 𝑅2 R 2 ranged from 0.08 to 0.29 and the range of the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) was 14–64%. Our results suggest that currently available more » AOP-derived data products should not be used without extensive ground-based validation. Relationships using the full reflectance spectra may be more promising, although careful consideration of field and AOP data mismatches in space and/or time, biases in field-based measurements or AOP algorithms, and model uncertainty are needed. Finally, grassland sites may be especially challenging for airborne spectroscopy because of their high species diversity within a small area, mixed functional types of plant communities, and heterogeneous mosaics of disturbance and resource availability. Remote sensing observations are one of the most promising approaches to understanding ecological patterns across space and time. But the opportunity to engage a diverse community of NEON data users will depend on establishing rigorous links with in-situ field measurements across a diversity of sites. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1926114 2025849
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract. Canopy radiative transfer is the primary mechanism by which models relate vegetation composition and state to the surface energy balance, which is important to light- and temperature-sensitive plant processes as well as understanding land–atmosphere feedbacks.In addition, certain parameters (e.g., specific leaf area, SLA) that have an outsized influence on vegetation model behavior can be constrained by observations of shortwave reflectance, thus reducing model predictive uncertainty.Importantly, calibrating against radiative transfer outputs allows models to directly use remote sensing reflectance products without relying on highly derived products (such as MODIS leaf area index) whose assumptions may be incompatible with the target vegetation model and whose uncertainties are usually not well quantified.Here, we created the EDR model by coupling the two-stream representation of canopy radiative transfer in the Ecosystem Demography model version 2 (ED2) with a leaf radiative transfer model (PROSPECT-5) and a simple soil reflectance model to predict full-range, high-spectral-resolution surface reflectance that is dependent on the underlying ED2 model state.We then calibrated this model against estimates of hemispherical reflectance (corrected for directional effects) from the NASA Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) and survey data from 54 temperate forest plots in the northeastern United States.The calibration significantly reduced uncertainty in modelmore »parameters related to leaf biochemistry and morphology and canopy structure for five plant functional types.Using a single common set of parameters across all sites, the calibrated model was able to accurately reproduce surface reflectance for sites with highly varied forest composition and structure.However, the calibrated model's predictions of leaf area index (LAI) were less robust, capturing only 46 % of the variability in the observations.Comparing the ED2 radiative transfer model with another two-stream soil–leaf–canopy radiative transfer model commonly used in remote sensing studies (PRO4SAIL) illustrated structural errors in the ED2 representation of direct radiation backscatter that resulted in systematic underestimation of reflectance.In addition, we also highlight that, to directly compare with a two-stream radiative transfer model like EDR, we had to perform an additional processing step to convert the directional reflectance estimates of AVIRIS to hemispherical reflectance (also known as “albedo”).In future work, we recommend that vegetation models add the capability to predict directional reflectance, to allow them to more directly assimilate a wide range of airborne and satellite reflectance products.We ultimately conclude that despite these challenges, using dynamic vegetation models to predict surface reflectance is a promising avenue for model calibration and validation using remote sensing data.« less
  2. Coastal salt marshes are biologically productive ecosystems that generate and sequester significant quantities of organic matter. Plant biomass varies spatially within a salt marsh and it is tedious and often logistically impractical to quantify biomass from field measurements across an entire landscape. Satellite data are useful for estimating aboveground biomass, however, high-resolution data are needed to resolve the spatial details within a salt marsh. This study used 3-m resolution multispectral data provided by Planet to estimate aboveground biomass within two salt marshes, North Inlet-Winyah Bay (North Inlet) National Estuary Research Reserve, and Plum Island Ecosystems (PIE) Long-Term Ecological Research site. The Akaike information criterion analysis was performed to test the fidelity of several alternative models. A combination of the modified soil vegetation index 2 (MSAVI2) and the visible difference vegetation index (VDVI) gave the best fit to the square root-normalized biomass data collected in the field at North Inlet (Willmott’s index of agreement d = 0.74, RMSE = 223.38 g/m2, AICw = 0.3848). An acceptable model was not found among all models tested for PIE data, possibly because the sample size at PIE was too small, samples were collected over a limited vertical range, in a different season, and frommore »areas with variable canopy architecture. For North Inlet, a model-derived landscape scale biomass map showed differences in biomass density among sites, years, and showed a robust relationship between elevation and biomass. The growth curve established in this study is particularly useful as an input for biogeomorphic models of marsh development. This study showed that, used in an appropriate model with calibration, Planet data are suitable for computing and mapping aboveground biomass at high resolution on a landscape scale, which is needed to better understand spatial and temporal trends in salt marsh primary production.« less
  3. Cost-effective phenotyping methods are urgently needed to advance crop genetics in order to meet the food, fuel, and fiber demands of the coming decades. Concretely, characterizing plot level traits in fields is of particular interest. Recent developments in high-resolution imaging sensors for UAS (unmanned aerial systems) focused on collecting detailed phenotypic measurements are a potential solution. We introduce canopy roughness as a new plant plot-level trait. We tested its usability with soybean by optical data collected from UAS to estimate biomass. We validate canopy roughness on a panel of 108 soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] recombinant inbred lines in a multienvironment trial during the R2 growth stage. A senseFly eBee UAS platform obtained aerial images with a senseFly S.O.D.A. compact digital camera. Using a structure from motion (SfM) technique, we reconstructed 3D point clouds of the soybean experiment. A novel pipeline for feature extraction was developed to compute canopy roughness from point clouds. We used regression analysis to correlate canopy roughness with field-measured aboveground biomass (AGB) with a leave-one-out cross-validation. Overall, our models achieved a coefficient of determination ( R 2 ) greater than 0.5 in all trials. Moreover, we found that canopy roughness has the ability to discern AGBmore »variations among different genotypes. Our test trials demonstrate the potential of canopy roughness as a reliable trait for high-throughput phenotyping to estimate AGB. As such, canopy roughness provides practical information to breeders in order to select phenotypes on the basis of UAS data.« less
  4. Abstract
    Excessive phosphorus (P) applications to croplands can contribute to eutrophication of surface waters through surface runoff and subsurface (leaching) losses. We analyzed leaching losses of total dissolved P (TDP) from no-till corn, hybrid poplar (Populus nigra X P. maximowiczii), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), miscanthus (Miscanthus giganteus), native grasses, and restored prairie, all planted in 2008 on former cropland in Michigan, USA. All crops except corn (13 kg P ha−1 year−1) were grown without P fertilization. Biomass was harvested at the end of each growing season except for poplar. Soil water at 1.2 m depth was sampled weekly to biweekly for TDP determination during March–November 2009–2016 using tension lysimeters. Soil test P (0–25 cm depth) was measured every autumn. Soil water TDP concentrations were usually below levels where eutrophication of surface waters is frequently observed (> 0.02 mg L−1) but often higher than in deep groundwater or nearby streams and lakes. Rates of P leaching, estimated from measured concentrations and modeled drainage, did not differ statistically among cropping systems across years; 7-year cropping system means ranged from 0.035 to 0.072 kg P ha−1 year−1 with large interannual variation. Leached P was positively related to STP, which decreased over the 7 years in all systems. These results indicate that both P-fertilized and unfertilized cropping systems mayMore>>
  5. Accurately mapping tree species composition and diversity is a critical step towards spatially explicit and species-specific ecological understanding. The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a valuable source of open ecological data across the United States. Freely available NEON data include in-situ measurements of individual trees, including stem locations, species, and crown diameter, along with the NEON Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) airborne remote sensing imagery, including hyperspectral, multispectral, and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data products. An important aspect of predicting species using remote sensing data is creating high-quality training sets for optimal classification purposes. Ultimately, manually creating training data is an expensive and time-consuming task that relies on human analyst decisions and may require external data sets or information. We combine in-situ and airborne remote sensing NEON data to evaluate the impact of automated training set preparation and a novel data preprocessing workflow on classifying the four dominant subalpine coniferous tree species at the Niwot Ridge Mountain Research Station forested NEON site in Colorado, USA. We trained pixel-based Random Forest (RF) machine learning models using a series of training data sets along with remote sensing raster data as descriptive features. The highest classification accuracies, 69% and 60% based onmore »internal RF error assessment and an independent validation set, respectively, were obtained using circular tree crown polygons created with half the maximum crown diameter per tree. LiDAR-derived data products were the most important features for species classification, followed by vegetation indices. This work contributes to the open development of well-labeled training data sets for forest composition mapping using openly available NEON data without requiring external data collection, manual delineation steps, or site-specific parameters.« less