Environmental Science Division (EVS) a Division of Argonne National Laboratory
Research Highlights Index

Ecosystem Spectroscopy (EcoSpec)

EVS is developing a methodology for investigating patterns and associations between ecosystem fluxes and spectral responses of the land surface.

Because the atmosphere, plants, and soils control Earth's terrestrial carbon and water cycles, better understanding of atmosphere-biosphere interactions near the surface is needed for accurate forecasting of future climate. Despite an advanced forecasting capability for ecosystem functions and climate at regional and global scales, little is known about how local-scale phenomena relate to large-scale phenomena. The EcoSpec project aims to investigate local-scale, high-temporal-frequency interactions between the near-surface atmosphere and the terrestrial biosphere and ultimately, by filling the knowledge gap in ecosystem dynamics, to improve representations in climate change models.

Environmental conditions such as temperature, moisture, and light intensity strongly influence photosynthesis, respiration, and evapotranspiration in ecosystems. These functions vary with the composition and properties of the terrestrial surface. It is widely recognized that spectral reflectance values for terrestrial ecosystems are a function of the composition, abundance, and configuration of surface features—such as plants and soils—and their physical and chemical properties.

By applying the principles of biophysical remote sensing, a team of Argonne scientists and engineers is exploring the power of optical information to predict the dynamics of ecosystem functions through optical-flux data analysis of tower-based hyperspectral remote sensing and flux measurements.

The EcoSpec optical tower system is equipped with a hyperspectral sensor with over 2,000 spectral channels, thermal infrared sensors, an RGB (red, green, blue) camera, a shadowband radiometer, and an albedometer. The system is 100% solar powered and is controlled by two single-board computers that collect data every minute from dawn to dusk and transmit the data wirelessly throughout growing seasons.

EcoSpec optical tower system (prototype).
EcoSpec optical tower system (prototype). [Source: Argonne National Laboratory]
Housed in a clear enclosure 4.5 in. wide, 3 in. deep, and 2 in. high, a low power single-board “Raspberry Pi” computer paired with a “PiFace” interface board, controls the apparatus, transfers data, and checks system functions versus a pre-determined timeline and set of specifications.
Housed in a clear enclosure 4.5 in. wide, 3 in. deep, and 2 in. high, a low power single-board “Raspberry Pi” computer paired with a “PiFace” interface board, controls the apparatus, transfers data, and checks system functions versus a pre-determined timeline and set of specifications. [Source: Argonne National Laboratory]

Hyperspectral data collected with the EcoSpec system from two plants with complete and partial leaf cover clearly indicated contrasting spectral vegetation index values. Changes in the index values over time also showed different characteristic patterns for the two plants. The EcoSpec project investigates whether photosynthesis and respiration indicators can be isolated from physical variations (e.g., leaf cover, color, and orientation) in hyperspectral data.

Experimental data collected for two potted plants with comparable leaf cover. Over time, both plants showed descending trends in normalized-difference vegetation index (NDVI) and ascending trends in photochemical reflectance index (PRI). Variability in index values between the two plants stemmed from factors including the amounts of green leaves and shadow, leaf color, and leaf orientation.
Experimental data collected for two potted plants with comparable leaf cover. Over time, both plants showed descending trends in normalized-difference vegetation index (NDVI) and ascending trends in photochemical reflectance index (PRI). Variability in index values between the two plants stemmed from factors including the amounts of green leaves and shadow, leaf color, and leaf orientation. [Source: Argonne National Laboratory]

The Argonne EcoSpec team consists of remote sensing scientists, ecologists, electrical and mechanical engineers, computer scientists, and statisticians from the Environmental Science, Biosciences, and Mathematics and Computer Science Divisions. The EcoSpec system was deployed to the Fermi agricultural site in June 2015. By 2016, with the agricultural system as a test case, the EcoSpec team will develop operational infrastructure and streamlined protocols for high-temporal-frequency hyperspectral data collection, approaches to data management and quality control, and integrated analytics for hyper-dimensional time-series data sets. The framework is expected to be applied eventually to more complex ecosystems.

EcoSpec Project web site home page

EcoSpec Web Site

For the latest information on the project, see the EcoSpec Project web site.


Related Research Areas

See the Research Highlights Index for a complete list of EVS research highlights.

photo of Yuki Hamada
Assistant Biophysical Scientist/Remote Sensing
Capabilities: Applications of optical remote sensing and geospatial modeling approaches for analyzing and monitoring terrestrial ecosystem functions and processes; application of plant spectroscopy to hyperspectral image analysis for terrestrial ecosystem research; development of novel image processing algorithms to extract and characterize land surface and aquatic features and properties; use of geospatial information technologies in development of a framework for data interpolation, extrapolation, and scaling from fine-resolution local scale to coarse regional scale.