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Department of Geography

#18: A 3D view on breathing forests

Forests mediate important exchange processes between the biosphere and the atmosphere. We provide a tomographic perspective on forest gas exchange to enable the development of sensitive remote sensing approaches.

Vertical variations in transpiration in a subset of the Lägeren forest. Bright blue indicates high water loss and dark blue low water loss due to transpiration. Grey values show average transpiration rates of trees in the background.

One of the most fascinating processes on earth is plant photosynthesis - the conversion of carbon dioxide to biomass via light energy. Photosynthesis is the foundation of life on earth from an unlimited and green energy source - sun light - and drives various processes in the earth system. However, photosynthesis is a highly complex process that is difficult to measure. 

Newest remote sensing technology - fluorescence spectroscopy - enables the measurement of a faint emitted light that directly relates to the photosynthetic process. Specific tools are essential to exploit and convert these new light measurements into rates of actual photosynthesis and the exchange of carbon dioxide or water. 

For a better understanding of forest photosynthesis

Our latest research activities focus on the development of modelling environments to simulate forest photosynthesis and related gas exchange processes in 3D. Our results open new pathways to better measure photosynthesis from space, to understand the dynamics of related gas exchange process from leaf to global scale, and to eventually advance our knowledge of the Earth system.

More information

Damm, A., Paul-Limoges, E., Kükenbrink, D., Bachofen, C. & Morsdorf, F. (2020). Remote sensing of forest gas exchange: Considerations derived from a tomographic perspective. Global Change Biology,

Alexander Damm, Eugenie Paul-Limoges


Weiterführende Informationen

Remote Sensing of Water Systems