Plant phenolics and absorption features in vegetation reflectance spectra near 1.66 μm

International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Andrew K. Skidmore, Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, The Netherlands
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Abstract

Past laboratory and field studies have quantified phenolic substances in vegetative matter from reflectance measurements for understanding plant response to herbivores and insect predation. Past remote sensing studies on phenolics have evaluated crop quality and vegetation patterns caused by bedrock geology and associated variations in soil geochemistry. We examined spectra of pure phenolic compounds, common plant biochemical constituents, dry leaves, fresh leaves, and plant canopies for direct evidence of absorption features attributable to plant phenolics. Using spectral feature analysis with continuum removal, we observed that a narrow feature at 1.66 μm is persistent in spectra of manzanita, sumac, red maple, sugar maple, tea, and other species. This feature was consistent with absorption caused by aromatic C-H bonds in the chemical structure of phenolic compounds and non-hydroxylated aromatics. Because of overlapping absorption by water, the feature was weaker in fresh leaf and canopy spectra compared to dry leaf measurements. Simple linear regressions of feature depth and feature area with polyphenol concentration in tea resulted in high correlations and low errors (% phenol by dry weight) at the dry leaf (r2 = 0.95, RMSE = 1.0%, n = 56), fresh leaf (r2 = 0.79, RMSE = 2.1%, n = 56), and canopy (r2 = 0.78, RMSE = 1.0%, n = 13) levels of measurement. Spectra of leaves, needles, and canopies of big sagebrush and evergreens exhibited a weak absorption feature centered near 1.63 μm, short ward of the phenolic compounds, possibly consistent with terpenes. This study demonstrates that subtle variation in vegetation spectra in the shortwave infrared can directly indicate biochemical constituents and be used to quantify them. Phenolics are of lesser abundance compared to the major plant constituents but, nonetheless, have important plant functions and ecological significance. Additional research is needed to advance our understanding of the spectral influences of plant phenolics and terpenes relative to dominant leaf biochemistry (water, chlorophyll, protein/nitrogen, cellulose, and lignin).

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Plant phenolics and absorption features in vegetation reflectance spectra near 1.66 μm
Series title International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
DOI 10.1016/j.jag.2015.01.010
Volume 43
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 29 p.
First page 55
Last page 83
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N