Date of Award

Spring 2015

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Scott V Ollinger

Second Advisor

William H McDowell

Third Advisor

Michael W Palace


Foliar nitrogen (N) concentration of plant canopies plays a central role in a number of important ecosystem processes and continues to be an active subject in the field of remote sensing. Previous efforts to estimate foliar N at the landscape scale have primarily focused on intact forests and grasslands using aircraft imaging spectrometry and various techniques of statistical calibration and modeling. The present study was designed to extend this work by examining the potential to estimate the foliar N concentration of residential, agricultural and other cultivated grassland areas within a suburbanizing watershed. In conjunction with ground-based vegetation sampling, we developed Partial Least Squares (PLS) models for predicting mass-based foliar N across management types using input from airborne and field based imaging spectrometers. Results yielded strong predictive relationships for both ground- and aircraft-based sensors across sites that included turf grass, grazed pasture, hayfields and fallow fields. We also report on relationships between imaging spectrometer data and other important variables such as canopy height, biomass, and water content, results from which show strong promise for detection with high quality imaging spectrometry data and suggest that cultivated grassland offer opportunity for empirical study of canopy light dynamics. Finally, we discuss the potential for application of our results, and potential challenges, with data from the planned HyspIRI satellite, which will provide global coverage of data useful for vegetation N estimation.