Foliar nitrogen in relation to plant traits and reflectance properties of New Hampshire forests

Academic Article


  • Several recent studies have shown that the mass-based concentration of nitrogen in foliage (%N) is positively correlated with canopy near-infrared reflectance (NIRr) and midsummer shortwave albedo across North American forests. Understanding the mechanisms behind this relationship would aid in interpretation of remote sensing imagery and improve our ability to predict changes in reflectance under future environmental conditions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which foliar nitrogen at leaf and canopy scales covary with leaf- and canopy-scale structural traits that are known to influence NIR scattering and reflectance. To accomplish this, we compared leaf and canopy traits with reflectance spectra at 17 mixed temperate forest stands. We found significant positive associations among %N and NIRr at both the leaf and canopy scale. At the canopy scale, both %N and NIRr were correlated with a number of structural traits as well as with the proportional abundance of deciduous and evergreen foliage. Identifying specific causal factors for observed reflectance patterns was complicated by interrelations among multiple traits across scales. Among simple metrics of canopy structure, we saw no relationship between NIRr and leaf area index, but we observed a strong, inverse relationship with the number of leaves per unit canopy volume.
  • Authors

  • Ollinger, Scott
  • Sullivan, Franklin
  • Sullivan, Franklin B
  • Ollinger, Scott V
  • Martin, Mary
  • Ducey, Mark
  • Lepine, Lucie C
  • Wicklein, Haley F
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • January 2013
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 18
  • End Page

  • 27
  • Volume

  • 43
  • Issue

  • 1