Environmental Science Division (EVS)a Division of Argonne National Laboratory
Predictive environmental understanding

Ecosystem Spectroscopy (EcoSpec)

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

How do local-scale phenomena relate to large-scale phenomena and vice versa? This is one of the key questions for improving climate models. Because the atmosphere, plants, and soils play important roles in the Earth's carbon and water cycles, a better understanding of atmosphere-biosphere interactions near the surface is crucial for the 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 is a study of how plants and ecosystems respond and contribute to environments. More specifically, the project investigates local-scale, high-temporal-frequency interactions between the near-surface atmosphere and the terrestrial biosphere and hopes to provide insights into local scale dynamics that can be useful to regional and global scale climate models.

Environmental conditions such as temperature, moisture, and light strongly influence photosynthesis, respiration, and evapotranspiration in ecosystems. These functions vary with the composition and properties of the land surface. Spectral reflectance of land surface is 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 tower-based hyperspectral remote sensing in conjunction with carbon and water flux and plant physical measurements.

The EcoSpec optical tower system is equipped with a hyperspectral sensor (or spectrometer) with over 2,000 spectral channels, thermal infrared sensors, an RGB (red, green, blue) camera, a diffuse radiometer, and an albedometer. The system is 100% solar powered and is controlled by a single-board computer that supports synchronized movement of instruments, collects data every minute from dawn to dusk, and transmits the data wirelessly throughout growing seasons.

EcoSpec optical tower system.
EcoSpec optical tower system. [Source: Argonne National Laboratory]
All instruments used for the EcoSpec project are solar powered.
All instruments used for the EcoSpec project are solar powered. [Source: Argonne National Laboratory]

The EcoSpec project first determines the indicative power of hyperspectral reflectance for plant activities and ecosystem functions at multiple time scales. Hyperspectral data collected from soybeans throughout the growing season indicate that plant properties such as green biomass, light use efficiency, and chlorophyll content primarily control photosynthesis during different parts of the season. Changes in the spectral reflectance values of corn within a day showed potential of hyperspectral remote sensing for characterizing the dynamics of plant responses to environmental conditions throughout the day.

Diurnal hyperspectral reflectance signatures from the Fermi Agricultural site. There is a recognizable pattern in how plants reflect sunlight across the day.
Diurnal hyperspectral reflectance signatures from the Fermi Agricultural site. There is a recognizable pattern in how plants reflect sunlight across the day. [Source: Argonne National Laboratory]

The Argonne EcoSpec team consists of remote sensing scientists, ecologists, electrical and mechanical engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians from the Environmental Science and Mathematics and Computer Science Divisions. The EcoSpec system was deployed to the Fermi agricultural site for the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons. With the agricultural system as a case study, the EcoSpec team has been developing data collection and quality control protocols for high-temporal-frequency hyperspectral remote sensing and integrated analytics for hyper-dimensional time-series forecasting. In 2017, the team is deploying the EcoSpec system to DOE's ARM Southern Great Plains site located in the north-central Oklahoma for operational testing by studying a different ecosystem.

 Paper: Hamada, Y.; Cook, D.; Bales, D. EcoSpec: Highly Equipped Tower-Based Hyperspectral and Thermal Infrared Automatic Remote Sensing System for Investigating Plant Responses to Environmental Changes. Sensors 2020, 20, 5463.

 Poster: Hamada, Y. et al. Tower-based optical sensing architecture for facilitating the investigation of fine scale biosphere-atmosphere interactions via optical-flux data integration. Poster presented at: The 2014 AGU Fall Meeting; December, 15-19, 2014; San Francisco, CA.

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 Areas.

photo of Yuki Hamada
Biophysical Remote Sensing Scientist
Capabilities: Applications of optical and infrared 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-resolution regional scale.