, Volume 105, Issue 1-2, pp 107-118,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 15 Dec 2010

Dynamics of photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) and estimates in coastal northern California


Plants require solar radiation for photosynthesis and their growth is directly related to the amount received, assuming that other environmental parameters are not limiting. Therefore, precise estimation of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) is necessary to enhance overall accuracies of plant growth models. This study aimed to explore the PAR radiant flux in the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California. During the growing season (March through August) for 2 years 2007–2008, the on-site magnitudes of photosynthetic photon flux densities (PPFD) were investigated and then processed at both the hourly and daily time scales. Combined with global solar radiation (R S) and simulated extraterrestrial solar radiation, five PAR-related values were developed, i.e., flux density-based PAR (PPFD), energy-based PAR (PARE), from-flux-to-energy conversion efficiency (fFEC), and the fraction of PAR energy in the global solar radiation (fE), and a new developed indicator—lost PARE percentages (LPR)—when solar radiation penetrates from the extraterrestrial system to the ground. These PAR-related values indicated significant diurnal variation, high values occurring at midday, with the low values occurring in the morning and afternoon hours. During the entire experimental season, the overall mean hourly value of fFEC was found to be 2.17 μmol J−1, while the respective fE value was 0.49. The monthly averages of hourly fFEC and fE at the solar noon time ranged from 2.15 in March to 2.39 μmol J−1 in August and from 0.47 in March to 0.52 in July, respectively. However, the monthly average daily values were relatively constant, and they exhibited a weak seasonal variation, ranging from 2.02 mol MJ−1 and 0.45 (March) to 2.19 mol MJ−1 and 0.48 (June). The mean daily values of fFEC and fE at the solar noon were 2.16 mol MJ−1 and 0.47 across the entire growing season, respectively. Both PPFD and the ever first reported LPR showed strong diurnal patterns. However, they had opposite trends. PPFD was high around noon, resulting in low values of LPR during the same time period. Both were found to be highly correlated with global solar radiation R S, solar elevation angle h, and the clearness index K t. Using the best subset selection of variables, two parametric models were developed for estimating PPFD and LPR, which can easily be applied in radiometric sites, by recording only global solar radiation measurements. These two models were found to be involved with the most commonly measured global solar radiation (R S) and two large-scale geometric parameters, i.e., extraterrestrial solar radiation and solar elevation. The models were therefore insensitive to local weather conditions such as temperature. In particular, with two test data sets collected in USA and Greece, it was verified that the models could be extended across different geographical areas, where they performed well. Therefore, these two hourly based models can be used to provide precise PAR-related values, such as those required for developing precise vegetation growth models.