The concentration of nitrogen in foliage has been related to rates of net photosynthesis across a wide range of plant species and functional groups and thus represents a simple and biologically meaningful link between terrestrial cycles of carbon and nitrogen. Although foliar N is used by ecosystem models to predict rates of leaf‐level photosynthesis, it has rarely been examined as a direct scalar to stand‐level carbon gain. Establishment of such relationships would greatly simplify the nature of forest C and N linkages, enhancing our ability to derive estimates of forest productivity at landscape to regional scales. Here, we report on a highly predictive relationship between whole‐canopy nitrogen concentration and aboveground forest productivity in diverse forested stands of varying age and species composition across the 360 000‐ha White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire, USA. We also demonstrate that hyperspectral remote sensing can be used to estimate foliar N concentration, and hence forest production across a large number of contiguous images. Together these data suggest that canopy‐level N concentration is an important correlate of productivity in these forested systems, and that imaging spectrometry of canopy N can provide direct estimates of forest productivity across large landscapes.


Earth Systems Research Center

Publication Date


Journal Title

Ecological Applications


Ecological Society of America (ESA)

Document Type



© 2002 by the Ecological Society of America.


This is an article published by Ecological Society of America (ESA) in Ecological Applications in 2002, available online:[1286:DEOAFP]2.0.CO;2