Characterizing biodiversity and understanding its consequences on ecosystem functioning are important challenges in the context of environmental change. Biodiversity encapsulates the condition and variations in a suite of compositional, structural, and functional attributes. Current methodologies for estimating biodiversity are expensive and time consuming and necessitates establishing less expensive methodology that can comprehensively characterize heterogeneity within an ecosystem. Remote sensing techniques offers promise in this development, because plants spatial and temporal variation in resource utilization result in chemical, metabolic, structural, and phenological differences that influence the optical properties of leaves and canopies. These variations cause contrasting optical patterns that are detectable by remote sensing, allowing for the separation of multiple levels diversity (i.e., genetic, phylogenetic, and functional) based on optical properties alone.
A primary focus of this research is to examine the ability of foliar optical properties to discern fine-scale measurements of diversity at multiple levels. A secondary goal is to determine if relationships exist among variations in foliar optical properties and ecosystem functioning. The combinations of these research objectives can provide methodology for estimating multiple levels of biodiversity in highly heterogeneous environments.