Exploring the relationship between reflectance red edge and chlorophyll content in slash pine

Tree Physiol. 1990 Dec;7(1_2_3_4):33-48. doi: 10.1093/treephys/7.1-2-3-4.33.


Chlorophyll is a key indicator of the physiological status of a forest canopy. However, its distribution may vary greatly in time and space, so that the estimation of chlorophyll content of canopies or branches by extrapolation from leaf values obtained by destructive sampling is labor intensive and potentially inaccurate. Chlorophyll content is related positively to the point of maximum slope in vegetation reflectance spectra which occurs at wavelengths between 690-740 nm and is known as the "red edge." The red edge of needles on individual slash pine (Pinus elliottii Engelm.) branches and in whole forest canopies was measured with a spectroradiometer. Branches were measured on the ground against a spectrally flat reflectance target and canopies were measured from observation towers against a spectrally variable understory and forest floor. There was a linear relationship between red edge and chlorophyll content of branches (R(2) = 0.91). Measurements of the red edge and this relationship were used to estimate the chlorophyll content of other branches with an error that was lower than that associated with the calorimetric (laboratory) method. There was no relationship between the red edge and the chlorophyll content of whole canopies. This can be explained by the overriding influence of the understory and forest floor, an influence that was illustrated by spectral mixture modeling. The results suggest that the red edge could be used to estimate the chlorophyll content in branches, but it is unlikely to be of value for the estimation of chlorophyll content in canopies unless the canopy cover is high.