Phylogenetic structure of foliar spectral traits in tropical forest canopies

Kelly M. McManus, Gregory P. Asner, Roberta E. Martin, Kyle G. Dexter, W. John Kress, Christopher B. Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The Spectranomics approach to tropical forest remote sensing has established a link between foliar reflectance spectra and the phylogenetic composition of tropical canopy tree communities vis-à-vis the taxonomic organization of biochemical trait variation. However, a direct relationship between phylogenetic affiliation and foliar reflectance spectra of species has not been established. We sought to develop this relationship by quantifying the extent to which underlying patterns of phylogenetic structure drive interspecific variation among foliar reflectance spectra within three Neotropical canopy tree communities with varying levels of soil fertility. We interpreted the resulting spectral patterns of phylogenetic signal in the context of foliar biochemical traits that may contribute to the spectral-phylogenetic link. We utilized a multi-model ensemble to elucidate trait-spectral relationships, and quantified phylogenetic signal for spectral wavelengths and traits using Pagel's lambda statistic. Foliar reflectance spectra showed evidence of phylogenetic influence primarily within the visible and shortwave infrared spectral regions. These regions were also selected by the multi-model ensemble as those most important to the quantitative prediction of several foliar biochemical traits. Patterns of phylogenetic organization of spectra and traits varied across sites and with soil fertility, indicative of the complex interactions between the environmental and phylogenetic controls underlying patterns of biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number196
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional traits
  • Hyperspectral
  • Imaging spectroscopy
  • Phylogenetic signal
  • Phylogeny
  • Soil fertility
  • Spectranomics
  • Tropical forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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