Superior National Forest Project

Project Description
During the summers of 1983 and 1984, NASA conducted an intensive experiment in a portion of the Superior National Forest (SNF) near Ely, Minnesota, U.S.A. The purpose of this experiment was to investigate the ability of remote sensing to provide estimates of biophysical properties of ecosystems, such as leaf area index (LAI), biomass, and net primary productivity (NPP).

The study area covered a 50 X 50 km area centered at approximately 48 degrees North latitude and 92 degrees West longitude in northeastern Minnesota at the southern edge of the North American boreal forest. The SNF is mostly covered by boreal forest. Boreal forests were chosen for this project because of their relative taxonomic simplicity, their great extent, and their potential sensitivity to climatic change.

Detailed vegetation data were collected on the ground for about 100 sampled sites. These sites represent a range of stand density and age for spruce and aspen and also include jackpine and mixed stands. At each site, five circular subplots of 16 meters in diameter were sampled within a large plot of 60 meters in diameter. Within the subplots, all woody stems over 2 meters in height were tallied by species, diameter, and height.

Satellite, aircraft, helicopter, and ground observations were obtained for the study area. Climate data for the period 1972-1990 were also complied. These data constitute a unique data set for the investigation of the relationships between the radiometric and biophysical properties of vegetated canopies. This is perhaps the most complete data set of its type ever collected over a forested region.

Within each subplot, coverage by vegetation was determined for the canopy, subcanopy, and understory. Thirty each of black spruce and aspen trees from outside the plots were sacrificed and dimension analysis relations developed between diameter at breast height, biomass, and leaf area index. Also, above-ground NPP was estimated for each test site. For the aspen sites, bark area and understory leaf area indexes were found. During the spring, measurements of understory leaf extension and canopy coverage were made on several days to describe the phenology of an aspen stand. Measurements of the optical properties of canopy components were made for wavelengths between 0.35 and 2.1 micrometers. Reflectance and transmittance properties of leaves and needles of eight major overstory tree species and three understory shrubs were measured. Multiple measurements of aspen and spruce allow an investigation of the variability of optical properties within a species, spagnum moss and leaf litter.

Above-canopy reflectance was observed by a helicopter-mounted Barnes Modular Multiband Radiometer (MMR). The helicopter MMR data have a spatial resolution of approximately 32 meters. In 1983, 10 days of data were collected between May and October, with a total of 105 sites observed. In 1984, 8 days of data were collected between May and September, with a total of 29 sites observed. Several sites have multiple observations, to allow studies of seasonal variation.

Thematic Mapper Simulator (TMS) data were collected from the NASA C-130 flying over the SNF. The flights were in a "criss-cross" pattern to allow observation of the same location with multiple sun and view angles. The TMS scans out to 50 degrees off nadir; in flights at 5000 feet above ground level, a nadir pixel covers 3.81 meters along the scan. Three days of TMS data are presented; these data have been atmospherically corrected and calibrated to determine surface reflectance. A key goal of the experiment was to use the aircraft measurements to scale up to satellite observations for the remote sensing of biophysical parameters.

[Summary provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.]