Using reflectance to explain vegetation biochemical and structural effects on sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence

P. Yang*, C. van der Tol, W. Verhoef, Alexander Damm, Anke Schickling, Thorsten Kraska, Onno Muller, Uwe Rascher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The growing availability of global measurements of sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF) can help in improving crop monitoring, especially the monitoring of photosynthetic activity. However, variations in top-of-canopy (TOC) SIF cannot be directly interpreted as physiological changes because of the confounding effects of vegetation biochemistry (i.e. pigments, dry matter and water) and structure. In this study, we propose an approach of using radiative transfer models (RTMs) and TOC reflectance to estimate the biochemical and structural effects on TOC SIF, as a necessary step in retrieving physiological information from TOC SIF. The approach was assessed by using airborne (HyPlant) reflectance and SIF data acquired over an agricultural experimental farm in Germany on two days, before and during a heat event in summer 2015 with maximum temperatures of 27°C and 34°C, respectively. The results show that over 76% variation among different crops in SIF observations was explained by variation in vegetation biochemistry and structure. In addition, the changes of vegetation biochemistry and structure explained as much as 73% variation between the two days in far-red SIF, and 40% variation in red SIF. The remaining unexplained variation was mostly attributed to the variability in physiological status. We conclude that reflectance provides valuable information to account for biochemical and structural effects on SIF and to advance analysis of SIF observations. The combination of RTMs, reflectance and SIF opens new pathways to detect vegetation biochemical, structural and physiological changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110996
Number of pages11
JournalRemote sensing of environment
Early online date6 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2019


  • Airborne
  • Canopy structure
  • Chlorophyll fluorescence
  • HyPlant
  • Radiative transfer models
  • Reflectance
  • 22/4 OA procedure


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