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 (
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Elizabeth Borer (Ed.)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 of more than 0.25. For all vegetation traits, validation 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 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.more » « less
Rapid global change is impacting the diversity of tree species and essential ecosystem functions and services of forests. It is therefore critical to understand and predict how the diversity of tree species is spatially distributed within and among forest biomes. Satellite remote sensing platforms have been used for decades to map forest structure and function but are limited in their capacity to monitor change by their relatively coarse spatial resolution and the complexity of scales at which different dimensions of biodiversity are observed in the field. Recently, airborne remote sensing platforms making use of passive high spectral resolution (i.e., hyperspectral) and active lidar data have been operationalized, providing an opportunity to disentangle how biodiversity patterns vary across space and time from field observations to larger scales. Most studies to date have focused on single sites and/or one sensor type; here we ask how multiple sensor types from the National Ecological Observatory Network’s Airborne Observation Platform (NEON AOP) perform across multiple sites in a single biome at the NEON field plot scale (i.e., 40 m × 40 m).
With a fusion of hyperspectral and lidar data from the NEON AOP, we assess the ability of high resolution remotely sensed metrics to measure biodiversity variation across eastern US temperate forests. We examine how taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic measures of alpha diversity vary spatially and assess to what degree remotely sensed metrics correlate with in situ biodiversity metrics.
Models using estimates of forest function, canopy structure, and topographic diversity performed better than models containing each category alone. Our results show that canopy structural diversity, and not just spectral reflectance, is critical to predicting biodiversity.
We found that an approach that jointly leverages spectral properties related to leaf and canopy functional traits and forest health, lidar derived estimates of forest structure, fine‐resolution topographic diversity, and careful consideration of biogeographical differences within and among biomes is needed to accurately map biodiversity variation from above.
null (Ed.)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 model 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.more » « less
Imaging spectroscopy provides the opportunity to incorporate leaf and canopy optical data into ecological studies, but the extent to which remote sensing of vegetation can enhance the study of belowground processes is not well understood. In terrestrial systems, aboveground and belowground vegetation quantity and quality are coupled, and both influence belowground microbial processes and nutrient cycling. We hypothesized that ecosystem productivity, and the chemical, structural and phylogenetic‐functional composition of plant communities would be detectable with remote sensing and could be used to predict belowground plant and soil processes in two grassland biodiversity experiments: the BioDIV experiment at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in Minnesota and the Wood River Nature Conservancy experiment in Nebraska. We tested whether aboveground vegetation chemistry and productivity, as detected from airborne sensors, predict soil properties, microbial processes and community composition. Imaging spectroscopy data were used to map aboveground biomass, green vegetation cover, functional traits and phylogenetic‐functional community composition of vegetation. We examined the relationships between the image‐derived variables and soil carbon and nitrogen concentration, microbial community composition, biomass and extracellular enzyme activity, and soil processes, including net nitrogen mineralization. In the BioDIV experiment—which has low overall diversity and productivity despite high variation in each—belowground processes were driven mainly by variation in the amount of organic matter inputs to soils. As a consequence, soil respiration, microbial biomass and enzyme activity, and fungal and bacterial composition and diversity were significantly predicted by remotely sensed vegetation cover and biomass. In contrast, at Wood River—where plant diversity and productivity were consistently higher—belowground processes were driven mainly by variation in the quality of aboveground inputs to soils. Consequently, remotely sensed functional, chemical and phylogenetic composition of vegetation predicted belowground extracellular enzyme activity, microbial biomass, and net nitrogen mineralization rates but aboveground biomass (or cover) did not. The contrasting associations between the quantity (productivity) and quality (composition) of aboveground inputs with belowground soil attributes provide a basis for using imaging spectroscopy to understand belowground processes across productivity gradients in grassland systems. However, a mechanistic understanding of how above and belowground components interact among different ecosystems remains critical to extending these results broadly.
Abstract The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a multidecadal and continental-scale observatory with sites across the United States. Having entered its operational phase in 2018, NEON data products, software, and services become available to facilitate research on the impacts of climate change, land-use change, and invasive species. An essential component of NEON are its 47 tower sites, where eddy-covariance (EC) sensors are operated to determine the surface–atmosphere exchange of momentum, heat, water, and CO 2 . EC tower networks such as AmeriFlux, the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS), and NEON are vital for providing the distributed observations to address interactions at the soil–vegetation–atmosphere interface. NEON represents the largest single-provider EC network globally, with standardized observations and data processing explicitly designed for intersite comparability and analysis of feedbacks across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Furthermore, EC is tightly integrated with soil, meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, isotope, phenology, and rich contextual observations such as airborne remote sensing and in situ sampling bouts. Here, we present an overview of NEON’s observational design, field operation, and data processing that yield community resources for the study of surface–atmosphere interactions. Near-real-time data products become available from the NEON Data Portal, and EC and meteorological data are ingested into AmeriFlux and FLUXNET globally harmonized data releases. Open-source software for reproducible, extensible, and portable data analysis includes the eddy4R family of R packages underlying the EC data product generation. These resources strive to integrate with existing infrastructures and networks, to suggest novel systemic solutions, and to synergize ongoing research efforts across science communities.more » « less