Data assimilation of photosynthetic light-use efficiency using multi-angular satellite data: II Model implementation and validation

Thomas Hilker*, Forrest G. Hall, Compton J. Tucker, Nicholas C. Coops, T. Andrew Black, Caroline J. Nichol, Piers J. Sellers, Alan Barr, David Y. Hollinger, J. W. Munger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatially explicit and temporally continuous estimates of photosynthesis will be of great importance for increasing our understanding of and ultimately closing the terrestrial carbon cycle. Current capabilities to model photosynthesis, however, are limited by accurate enough representations of the complexity of the underlying biochemical processes and the numerous environmental constraints imposed upon plant primary production. A potentially powerful alternative to model photosynthesis through these indirect observations is the use of multi-angular satellite data to infer light-use efficiency (ε) directly from spectral reflectance properties in connection with canopy shadow fractions. Hall et al. (this issue) introduced a new approach for predicting gross ecosystem production that would allow the use of such observations in a data assimilation mode to obtain spatially explicit variations in ε from infrequent polar-orbiting satellite observations, while meteorological data are used to account for the more dynamic responses of ε to variations in environmental conditions caused by changes in weather and illumination. In this second part of the study we implement and validate the approach of Hall et al. (this issue) across an ecologically diverse array of eight flux-tower sites in North America using data acquired from the Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (CHRIS) and eddy-flux observations. Our results show significantly enhanced estimates of ε and therefore cumulative gross ecosystem production (GEP) over the course of one year at all examined sites. We also demonstrate that ε is greatly heterogeneous even across small study areas. Data assimilation and direct inference of GEP from space using a new, proposed sensor could therefore be a significant step towards closing the terrestrial carbon cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-300
Number of pages14
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • Carbon modeling
  • CHRIS/Proba
  • Data assimilation
  • Downregulation
  • Eddy-flux
  • Epsilon
  • Epsilon max
  • Global carbon cycle
  • Multi-angular
  • Multivariate function
  • Photosynthesis
  • PRI'
  • Vegetation carbon cycle


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