Field spectroscopy and spectral reflectance modelling of Calluna vulgaris
MacArthur, Alasdair Archibald
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Boreal peatlands store carbon sequestered from the atmosphere over millennia and the importance of this and the other ecosystem services these areas provide is now widely recognised. However, a changing climate will affect these environments and, consequently, the services they provide to the global population. The rate and direction of environmental change to peatlands is currently unclear and they have not yet been included in many climate models. This may in part be due to the ecological heterogeneity and spatial extent of these areas and the sparse sampling survey methods currently adopted. Hyperspectral remote sensing from satellite platforms may in future offer an approach to surveying and do so at the high spectral and spatial resolutions necessary to infer ecological change in these peatlands. However, work is required to develop methods of analysis to determine if hyperspectral data can be used to measure the overstorey vegetation of these areas. This will require an understanding of how annual and inter-annual cyclical changes affect the peatland plant canopy reflectances that would be recorded by hyperspectral sensors and how these reflectances can be related to state variable of interest to climate scientists, ecologists and peatland managers. There are significant areas of peatland within Scotland and, as it is towards the southern extreme of the boreal peatlands, these may be an early indicator of environment change to the wider boreal region. Calluna vulgaris, a hardy dwarf shrub, is the dominant overstorey species over much of these peatlands and could serve as a proxy for ecological, and consequently, environmental change. However, little has been done to understand how variations in leaf pigments or canopy structural parameters influence the spectral reflectance of Calluna through annual and inter-annual growth and senescence cycles. Nor has much work been done to develop methods of analysis to enable images acquired by hyperspectral remote sensing to be utilised to monitor change to these Calluna dominated peatlands over time. To advance understanding of the optical properties of Calluna leaves and canopies and develop methods to analyse hyperspectral images laboratory, field and modelling studies have been carried out in time series over a number of years. The leaf and canopy parameters significantly affecting reflectance have been identified and quantified. Differences between published Chlorophyll(a+b) in vivo absorption spectra and those determined were found. Carotenoids and Anthocyanins were also identified and quantified. The absorption spectra of these pigments were incorporated into a canopy reflectance model and this was coupled to a Calluna growth model. This combined model enabled the reflectance of Calluna canopies to be modelled in daily increments through annual and inter-annual growth and senescence cycles. Reasonable results were achieved in spectral regions where reflectance changed systematically but only for homogeneous Calluna stands. However, it was noted during this research that the area of support for the spectral measurements appeared to differ from that assumed from the specification provided by the spectroradiometer manufacturers. The directional response functions (DRFs) of two spectroradiometers were investigated and wavelength, or wavelength region, specific spatial dependences were noted. The effect that the DRFs of the spectroradiometers would have on reflectances recorded from Calluna canopies was investigated through a modelling study. Errors and inaccuracies in the spectra that would be recorded from these canopies, and commonly used biochemical indices derived from them, have been quantified.