Scaling up semi-arid grassland biochemical content from the leaf to the canopy level: challenges and opportunities

Sensors (Basel). 2010;10(12):11072-87. doi: 10.3390/s101211072. Epub 2010 Dec 6.


Remote sensing imagery is being used intensively to estimate the biochemical content of vegetation (e.g., chlorophyll, nitrogen, and lignin) at the leaf level. As a result of our need for vegetation biochemical information and our increasing ability to obtain canopy spectral data, a few techniques have been explored to scale leaf-level biochemical content to the canopy level for forests and crops. However, due to the contribution of non-green materials (i.e., standing dead litter, rock, and bare soil) from canopy spectra in semi-arid grasslands, it is difficult to obtain information about grassland biochemical content from remote sensing data at the canopy level. This paper summarizes available methods used to scale biochemical information from the leaf level to the canopy level and groups these methods into three categories: direct extrapolation, canopy-integrated approach, and inversion of physical models. As for semi-arid heterogeneous grasslands, we conclude that all methods are useful, but none are ideal. It is recommended that future research should explore a systematic upscaling framework which combines spatial pattern analysis, canopy-integrated approach, and modeling methods to retrieve vegetation biochemical content at the canopy level.

Keywords: canopy level; hyperspectral remote sensing; leaf level; scaling; semi-arid grasslands; vegetation biochemical content.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods
  • Agriculture / trends*
  • Biochemistry
  • Chlorophyll / analysis
  • Desert Climate
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry*
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development*
  • Remote Sensing Technology* / instrumentation
  • Remote Sensing Technology* / methods
  • Soil / analysis
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Spectrum Analysis / instrumentation
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods
  • Trees / chemistry*
  • Trees / growth & development*
  • Trees / metabolism


  • Soil
  • Chlorophyll
  • Nitrogen