, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 315-325

Spectral changes with leaf aging in Amazon caatinga

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 Significant gaps exist in the knowledge of tropical leaf spectra and the manner in which spectra change as leaves age in their natural environment. Leaf aging effects may be particularly important in tropical vegetation growing on nutrient poor soils, such as Amazon caatinga, a white sand community common in the Amazon Basin. Spectral changes observed in six caatinga dominants include decreased reflectance and transmittance and increased absorptance for epiphyll-coated older leaves. Near-infrared (NIR) changes were most significant. More detailed spectral and physical changes were studied in one dominant, Aldina heterophylla. Over 16 months, Aldina study plants produced one or two leaf flushes. During leaf expansion, leaf water content and Specific Leaf Area decreased rapidly. Over the first 6 months spectral changes occurred across the spectrum, resulting in decreased transmittance and increased absorptance in the visible and NIR and decreased visible and increased NIR reflectance. In contrast, significant spectral changes were restricted to the NIR over the last 9 months, which showed a 10% absorptance increase associated primarily with increasing epiphylls and necrosis. At the canopy scale, increased NIR absorptance provides a mechanism for producing seasonally varying forest albedo and changing NIR to red ratios, independent of changes in other canopy attributes. In the Amazon caatinga studied, all canopy dominants were subject to epiphyllic growth providing a mechanism for distinguishing these forest types spectrally from more diverse terra-firme forest or forest types with more rapid leaf turnover, such as second growth. These changes are observable using remote sensing and could be used to map caatinga and monitor interannual or seasonal variability in phenology. If these results can be extended to other communities with long-lived foliage, they may offer a means for mapping vegetation on the basis of leaf longevity.