Research and Application News
Scientists probe water inside leaves via satellite
02 January 2018
Sensors on board satellites are able to detect a host of environmental metrics, from Arctic sea ice melt to the reproductive patterns of mule deer to logging and land clearing. One satellite-based measurement, called vegetation optical depth, is often used to track how plant life is responding to changes in climate.
However, scientists have not fully disentangled several other interrelated components of vegetation optical depth, such as biomass (the amount of leafy, versus woody, parts of plants) and water stress (water scarcity due to drought or root damage, affecting a plant's ability to function). In particular, understanding how leaf water potential—the potential energy of water held in a leaf and available to transpire into the atmosphere—affects vegetation optical depth would greatly improve our ability to study how plants respond to water stress and droughts.
Image credit: AMSR-E Science Team, National Space Development Agency of Japan - "First light" images from the AMSR-E instrument on board NASA's Aqua satellite.