Organismic-scale remote sensing of canopy foliar traits in lowland tropical forests

K. Dana Chadwick, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Airborne high fidelity imaging spectroscopy (HiFIS) holds great promise for bridging the gap between field studies of functional diversity, which are spatially limited, and satellite detection of ecosystem properties, which lacks resolution to understand within landscape dynamics. We use Carnegie Airborne Observatory HiFIS data combined with field collected foliar trait data to develop quantitative prediction models of foliar traits at the tree-crown level across over 1000 ha of humid tropical forest. We predicted foliar leaf mass per area (LMA) as well as foliar concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and potassium for canopy emergent trees (R2: 0.45-0.67, relative RMSE: 11%-14%). Correlations between remotely sensed model coefficients for these foliar traits are similar to those found in laboratory studies, suggesting that the detection of these mineral nutrients is possible through their biochemical stoichiometry. Maps derived from HiFIS provide quantitative foliar trait information across a tropical forest landscape at fine spatial resolution, and along environmental gradients. Multi-nutrient maps implemented at the fine organismic scale will subsequently provide new insight to the functional biogeography and biological diversity of tropical forest ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number87
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Carnegie airborne observatory
  • Foliar chemistry
  • Functional diversity
  • Functional traits
  • Hyperspectral
  • Imaging spectroscopy
  • Rock-derived nutrients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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