, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 87–104 | Cite as

Modelling foliage characteristics in 3D tree crowns: influence on light interception and leaf irradiance

  • Claude-Eric Parveaud
  • Jérôme Chopard
  • Jean Dauzat
  • Benoît Courbaud
  • Daniel AuclairEmail author
Original Paper


Because of the difficulty and time involved in making exhaustive measurements of the geometric parameters of large tree crowns, simplifying hypotheses are often used in 3D virtual plant modelling, but the effects on the radiation balance of each approximation are rarely assessed. Three hybrid walnut trees aged 7–9 years were digitized to analyse the effect of the crown geometric variables on light capture. The six studied variables were: (1) leaf area, (2) number of leaves per annual shoot, (3) position of leaves, (4) orientation of leaves, (5) leaflet inclination, and (6) lamina shape. For each variable, a sensitivity analysis compared a reference, based on observed values, with scenarios consisting of simplifying hypotheses. The total incident light intercepted during a bright day and the distributions of leaf irradiance were calculated using the Archimed radiative transfer model. Since some of the crown parameters were generated stochastically, the radiation simulations were repeated until results stabilised. Simplified models can be used to calculate with satisfactory results individual leaf area and number of leaves per shoot. Conversely, differentiating statistical distributions of individual leaf area between short and long shoots is more difficult and may generate errors up to 30%. Leaf clumping is a determining factor and requires correct grouping of leaves around the annual shoots bearing them. The effect of position of leaves along the shoot is less than 2%. Simple statistical distributions are adequate for representing leaf angle. Finally, the effect of specific leaf geometry is very important, but it can be approached using a limited number of representative leaf shapes.


Sensitivity analysis Leaf irradiance Crown reconstruction Leaf clumping Juglans regia × nigra 



Crown number 1 (614 leaves)


Crown number 2 (2 397 leaves)


Crown number 3 (4 943 leaves)

xi, yi, zi

Spatial coordinates of leaf i


Leaf surface area of the leaf i on annual shoot j (cm2)


Length of the annual shoot j (cm)


Relative rank of node i on shoot j


Number of leaves on the annual shoot j


Basal diameter of the annual shoot j (cm)


Relative position of the ith node on the annual shoot j


Number of leaflets on a leaf


Leaf area density (m2 m−3)


Leaf irradiance (μmols m−2 s−1) for leaf number i


Total photosynthetic active radiation intercepted by a crown (mols s−1)


Relative photosynthetic photon flux density distribution (%)

\( \overline{{{\text{STAR}}}} \)

Silhouette to total area ratio integrated on the sky vault

Greek letters


Azimuth angle of average leaf plane (degrees)


Elevation angle of average leaf plane (degrees)


Roll angle of average leaf plane (degrees)


Leaf normal inclination (degrees)


Light interception efficiency of a crown


Angle between two leaflets with the same point of attachment (degrees)



The authors are very grateful to Michaël Guéroult, Lydie Dufour and Sylvie Sabatier who helped for topological and geometric plant observations and measurements. Sylvie Sabatier made her data on internode length available. Christian Dupraz coordinated the SAFE project and the Restinclières agroforestry experimental site and contributed to discussions. We also thank Hervé Sinoquet and Évelyne Costes and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and advice on the first version of the manuscript. This study was partly supported by the SAFE project (Silvoarable Agroforestry For Europe, E.U. contract QLK5-CT-2001-00560) and by a joint Ph.D. grant from the Région Languedoc-Roussillon and INRA. AMAP (Botany and Computational Plant Architecture) is a joint research unit which associates CIRAD (UMR51), CNRS (UMR5120), INRA (UMR931), IRD (R123), and Montpellier 2 University (UM27);


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claude-Eric Parveaud
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jérôme Chopard
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jean Dauzat
    • 4
  • Benoît Courbaud
    • 5
  • Daniel Auclair
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.INRA, UMR AMAPMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.S.E.Nu.R.AChatteFrance
  3. 3.INRIA, UMR DAPMontpellierFrance
  4. 4.CIRAD, UMR AMAPMontpellierFrance
  5. 5.Cemagref, Unité de Recherche “Ecosystèmes Montagnards”Saint-Martin-d’HèresFrance
  6. 6.INRA, UMR AMAP (botAnique et bioinforMatique de l’Architecture des Plantes)Montpellier cedex 5France

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