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Marsh canopy leaf area and orientation calculated for improved marsh structure mapping

October 29, 2015

An approach is presented for producing the spatiotemporal estimation of leaf area index (LAI) of a highly heterogeneous coastal marsh without reliance on user estimates of marsh leaf-stem orientation. The canopy LAI profile derivation used three years of field measured photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) vertical profiles at seven S. alterniflora marsh sites and iterative transform of those PAR attenuation profiles to best-fit light extinction coefficients (KM). KM sun zenith dependency was removed obtaining the leaf angle distribution (LAD) representing the average marsh orientation and the LAD used to calculate the LAI canopy profile. LAI and LAD reproduced measured PAR profiles with 99% accuracy and corresponded to field documented structures. LAI and LAD better reflect marsh structure and results substantiate the need to account for marsh orientation. The structure indexes are directly amenable to remote sensing spatiotemporal mapping and offer a more meaningful representation of wetland systems promoting biophysical function understanding.