Validation of an Integrated Estimation of Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L.) Leaf Area Index (LAI) Using Two Indirect Optical Methods in the Southeastern United States
Quality assessment of satellite-derived leaf area index (LAI) products requires appropriate ground measurements for validation. Since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration launch of Terra (1999) and Aqua (2001), 1-km, 8-day composited retrievals of LAI have been produced for six biome classes worldwide. The evergreen needle leaf biome has been examined at numerous validation sites, but the dominant commercial species in the southeastern United States, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), has not been investigated. The objective of this research was to evaluate an in situ optical LAI estimation technique combining measurements from the Tracing Radiation and Architecture of Canopies (TRAC) optical sensor and digital hemispherical photography (DHP) in the southeastern US P. taeda forests. Stand-level LAI estimated from allometric regression equations developed from whole-tree harvest data were compared to TRAC–DHP optical LAI estimates at a study site located in the North Carolina Sandhills Region. Within-shoot clumping, (i.e., the needle-to-shoot area ratio [E]) was estimated at 1.21 and fell within the range of previously reported values for coniferous species (1.2–2.1). The woody-to-total area ratio (α = 0.31) was within the range of other published results (0.11–0.34). Overall, the indirect optical TRAC–DHP method of determining LAI was similar to LAI estimates that had been derived from allometric equations from whole-tree harvests. The TRAC–DHP yielded a value 0.14 LAI units below that retrieved from stand-level whole-tree harvest allometric equations. DHP alone yielded the best LAI estimate, a 0.04 LAI unit differential compared with the same allometrically derived LAI.
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