Prediction of Macronutrients at the Canopy Level Using Spaceborne Imaging Spectroscopy and LiDAR Data in a Mixedwood Boreal Forest
Noland, Thomas L.
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Information on foliar macronutrients is required in order to understand plant physiological and ecosystem processes such as photosynthesis, nutrient cycling, respiration and cell wall formation. The ability to measure, model and map foliar macronutrients (nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg)) at the forest canopy level provides information on the spatial patterns of ecosystem processes (e.g., carbon exchange) and provides insight on forest condition and stress. Imaging spectroscopy (IS) has been used particularly for modeling N, using airborne and satellite imagery mostly in temperate and tropical forests. However, there has been very little research conducted at these scales to model P, K, Ca, and Mg and few studies have focused on boreal forests. We report results of a study of macronutrient modeling using spaceborne IS and airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data for a mixedwood boreal forest canopy in northern Ontario, Canada. Models incorporating Hyperion data explained approximately 90% of the variation in canopy concentrations of N, P, and Mg; whereas the inclusion of LiDAR data significantly improved the prediction of canopy concentration of Ca (R2 = 0.80). The combined used of IS and LiDAR data significantly improved the prediction accuracy of canopy Ca and K concentration but decreased the prediction accuracy of canopy P concentration. The results indicate that the variability of macronutrient concentration due to interspecific and functional type differences at the site provides the basis for the relationship observed between the remote sensing measurements (i.e., IS and LiDAR) and macronutrient concentration. Crown closure and canopy height are the structural metrics that establish the connection between macronutrient concentration and IS and LiDAR data, respectively. The spatial distribution of macronutrient concentration at the canopy scale mimics functional type distribution at the site. The ability to predict canopy N, P, K, Ca and Mg in this study using only IS, only LiDAR or their combination demonstrates the excellent potential for mapping these macronutrients at canopy scales across larger geographic areas into the next decade with the launch of new IS satellite missions and by using spaceborne LiDAR data.