Heterogeneity of savanna canopy structure and function from imaging spectrometry and inverse modeling

Gregory P. Asner, Carol A. Wessman, David S. Schimel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Arid and semiarid ecosystems cover >40% of the earth's terrestrial surface. Woody plants and herbaceous species, each with distinct allocation and phenological characteristics, respond to and constrain ecosystem function and biogeochemistry in these regions. High-resolution estimates of vegetation extent, aboveground allocation, and phenology are needed to improve regional links between ecosystem structure and function, especially under conditions of changing land use. We used a combination of imaging spectrometry and radiative transfer inverse modeling techniques to quantify the structural and biophysical attributes of plant canopies and land-cover types in a South Texas savanna. Estimated canopy structural attributes were used to calculate the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR; 400-700 nm) absorbed by plant canopies and the live foliage and nonphotosynthetic components of the canopies. A landscape analysis of these variables revealed the complexity of the biotic, abiotic, and anthropogenic factors involved in land-cover change in the region. The accuracy in estimating these plant canopy structural and functional attributes has significant implications for range management, fire forecasting, physiological ecology, biogeochemistry, and analyses of landscape structure and diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1022-1036
Number of pages15
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Canopy structure
  • Imaging spectrometry
  • Inverse modeling
  • Landscape ecology
  • Leaf area index (LAI)
  • PAR
  • Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR)
  • Radiative transfer
  • Remote sensing
  • Savannas
  • Texas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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