Seasonal patterns of foliar reflectance in relation to photosynthetic capacity and color index in two co-occurring tree species, **Quercus rubra** and **Betula papyrifera**
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Agricultural and forest meteorology. - Amsterdam
, p. 60-68
University of Antwerp
Although foliar reflectance in the visible wavelengths is largely understood, species-specific relations between leaf spectral properties, pigment content and carbon exchange, and interdependence of these fundamental drivers that ultimately produce large-scale signals complicate understanding of and upscaling in remote sensing applications. We recorded seasonal patterns in foliar reflectance in relation to leaf photosynthetic, biochemical, structural and optical properties in two co-occurring tree species, red oak (Quercus rubra) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Over the course of a growing season, we monitored the timing of phenological events, i.e. bud break, near-complete leaf expansion and leaf fall, on mature trees. On a monthly basis, maximum rate of carboxylation (Vcmax) and maximum rate of electron transport (Jmax) were estimated from leaf-level gas exchange measurements in the upper crown for three individuals per species. Thereafter, visible and near infrared spectral properties, nitrogen content and specific leaf area were determined for sampled sunlit leaves. These data were compared with color indices extracted from digital images of sampled leaves throughout the growing season. Studied leaf traits significantly varied between the two species and throughout the growing season. Paper birch was characterized by relatively early bud break and rapid leaf expansion. Hence, interactions between species and day of year could be partly contributed to contrasting spring phenology of paper birch and red oak. Spectral vegetation indices, Chlorophyll Normalized Difference Index (Chl NDI), Photochemical Reflectance Index (PRI) and in particular Red Edge Position (λRE), gave a good indication of leaf physiology over the course of the growing season, more specifically of photosynthesis and leaf nitrogen on an area basis (Narea). On the other hand, color indices performed rather poorly at tracking key leaf functional traits in this study. Overall, dark green leaves characterized by low Intensity (I, derived from HSI color space) displayed highest photosynthetic activity and highest values of spectral vegetation indices.