Spectroscopic remote sensing of non-structural carbohydrates in forest canopies

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28 Scopus citations


Non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) are products of photosynthesis, and leaf NSC concentration may be a prognostic indicator of climate-change tolerance in woody plants. However, measurement of leaf NSC is prohibitively labor intensive, especially in tropical forests, where foliage is difficult to access and where NSC concentrations vary enormously by species and across environments. Imaging spectroscopy may allow quantitative mapping of leaf NSC, but this possibility remains unproven. We tested the accuracy of NSC remote sensing at leaf, canopy and stand levels using visible-to-shortwave infrared (VSWIR) spectroscopy with partial least squares regression (PLSR) techniques. Leaf-level analyses demonstrated the high precision (R2 = 0.69-0.73) and accuracy (%RMSE = 13%-14%) of NSC estimates in 6136 live samples taken from 4222 forest canopy species worldwide. The leaf spectral data were combined with a radiative transfer model to simulate the role of canopy structural variability, which led to a reduction in the precision and accuracy of leaf NSC estimation (R2 = 0.56; %RMSE = 16%). Application of the approach to 79 one-hectare plots in Amazonia using the Carnegie Airborne Observatory VSWIR spectrometer indicated the good precision and accuracy of leaf NSC estimates at the forest stand level (R2 = 0.49; %RMSE = 9.1%). Spectral analyses indicated strong contributions of the shortwave-IR (1300-2500nm) region to leaf NSC determination at all scales. We conclude that leaf NSC can be remotely sensed, opening doors to monitoring forest canopy physiological responses to environmental stress and climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3526-3547
Number of pages22
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Carnegie airborne observatory
  • Drought tolerance
  • Hyperspectral
  • Imaging spectroscopy
  • Soluble carbon
  • Tropical forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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