Seasonal patterns of forest canopy and their relevance for the global carbon cycle
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In the terrestrial biosphere forests have a significant role as a carbon sink. Under recent climate change, it is increasingly important to detect seasonal change or ‘phenology’ that can influence the global carbon cycle. Monitoring canopies using camera systems has offered an inexpensive means to quantify the phenological changes. However, the reliability is not well known. In order to examine the usefulness of cameras to observe forest phenology, we analysed canopy images taken in two deciduous forests in Japan and England and investigate which colour index is best for tracking forest phenology and predict carbon uptake by trees. A camera test using model leaves under controlled conditions has also carried out to examine sensitivity of colour indices for discriminating leaf colours. The main findings of the present study are: 1) Time courses of colour indices derived from images taken in deciduous forests showed typical patterns throughout the growing season. Although cameras are not calibrated instrument, analysis of images allowed detecting the timings of phenological events such as leaf onset and leaf fall; 2) The strength of the green channel (or chromatic coordinate of green) was useful to observe leaf expansion as well as damage by spring late frost. However, the results of the camera test using model leaves suggested that this index was not sufficiently sensitive to detect leaf senescence. Amongst colour indices, Hue was the most robust metric for different cameras, different atmospheric conditions and different distances. The test also revealed Hue was useful to track nitrogen status of leaves; 3) Modelling results using a light use efficiency model for GPP showed a strong relationship between GPP and Hue, which was stronger than the relationships using alternative traditional indices.