Plant Ecology

, Volume 214, Issue 12, pp 1529–1534 | Cite as

Black Spot: a platform for automated and rapid estimation of leaf area from scanned images

Article

Abstract

Leaf area and its derivatives (e.g. specific leaf area) are widely used in ecological assessments, especially in the fields of plant–animal interactions, plant community assembly, ecosystem functioning and global change. Estimating leaf area is highly time-consuming, even when using specialized software to process scanned leaf images, because manual inputs are invariably required for scale detection and leaf surface digitisation. We introduce Black Spot Leaf Area Calculator (hereafter, Black Spot), a technique and stand-alone software package for rapid and automated leaf area assessment from images of leaves taken with standard flatbed scanners. Black Spot operates on comprehensive rule-sets for colour band ratios to carry out pixel-based classification which isolates leaf surfaces from the image background. Importantly, the software extracts information from associated image meta-data to detect image scale, thereby eliminating the need for time-consuming manual scale calibration. Black Spot’s output provides the user with estimates of leaf area as well as classified images for error checking. We tested this method and software combination on a set of 100 leaves of 51 different plant species collected from the field. Leaf area estimates generated using Black Spot and by manual processing of the images using an image editing software generated statistically identical results. Mean error rate in leaf area estimates from Black Spot relative to manual processing was −0.4 % (SD = 0.76). The key advantage of Black Spot is the ability to rapidly batch process multi-species datasets with minimal user effort and at low cost, thus making it a valuable tool for field ecologists.

Keywords

Leaf area Software Pixel-based classification Batch process Functional traits Multi-species datasets 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Centre for Biological SciencesTata Institute of Fundamental ResearchBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Nature Conservation FoundationMysoreIndia

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