A detailed sensitivity analysis investigating the effect of woody elements introduced into the Discrete Anisotropic Radiative Transfer (DART) model on the nadir bidirectional reflectance factor (BRF) for a simulated Norway spruce canopy was performed at a very high spatial resolution (modelling resolution 0.2 m, output pixel size 0.4 m). We used such a high resolution to be able to parameterize DART in an appropriate way and subsequently to gain detailed understanding of the influence of woody elements contributing to the radiative transfer within heterogeneous canopies. Three scenarios were studied by modelling the Norway spruce canopy as being composed of i) leaves, ii) leaves, trunks and first order branches, and finally iii) leaves, trunks, first order branches and small woody twigs simulated using mixed cells (i.e. cells approximated as composition of leaves and/or twigs turbid medium, and large woody constituents). The simulation of each scenario was performed for 10 different canopy closures (CC=50–95%, in steps of 5%), 25 leaf area index (LAI=3.0–15.0 m2 m−2, in steps of 0.5 m2 m−2), and in four spectral bands (centred at 559, 671, 727, and 783 nm, with a FWHM of 10 nm). The influence of woody elements was evaluated separately for both, sunlit and shaded parts of the simulated forest canopy, respectively. The DART results were verified by quantifying the simulated nadir BRF of each scenario with measured Airborne Imaging Spectroradiometer (AISA) Eagle data (pixel size of 0.4 m). These imaging spectrometer data were acquired over the same Norway spruce stand that was used to parameterise the DART model. The Norway spruce canopy modelled using the DART model consisted of foliage as well as foliage including robust woody constituents (i.e. trunks and branches). All results showed similar nadir BRF for the simulated wavelengths. The incorporation of small woody parts in DART caused the canopy reflectance to decrease about 4% in the near-infrared (NIR), 2% in the red edge (RE) and less than 1% in the green band. The canopy BRF of the red band increased by about 2%. Subsequently, the sensitivity on accounting for woody elements for two spectral vegetation indices, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and the angular vegetation index (AVI), was evaluated. Finally, we conclude on the importance of including woody elements in radiative transfer based approaches and discuss the applicability of the vegetation indices as well as the physically based inversion approaches to retrieve the forest canopy LAI at very high spatial resolution.
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