Leaf area index in a forested mountain catchment

Keywords: mountain watershed, forest canopy, leaf area index, gap light analyser, satellite remote sensing


Leaf area index (LAI) belongs among the catchment characteristics widely used in hydrological models but still associated with great uncertainties. In a mountain forest catchment, the leaf area affects retention and evapotranspiration loss, and it could be significantly modified by forestry practices. In this study, LAI in mature stands of Norway spruce (Picea abies) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica) was analysed in headwater catchments of the Jizera Mountains (Czech Republic) between 2012 and 2016. A comparison evaluation of LAI in harvested site with dominant herbaceous vegetation was taken into account by applying direct ground investigation what was compared with hemispherical canopy photography (Gap light analyser GLA-V2) and satellite remote sensing (Sentinel-2 mission). While the direct ground measurement includes only the foliage (leaves or needles), the Gap light analysis is affected by trunks and branches, and the remote sensing techniques by herbaceous understory. The results of the Gap light analyser underestimated the ground based LAI values by 52–76 per cent, and satellite interpretations by 29–73 per cent. The remote sensing is capable to provide effective information on the distribution of LAI within the time and space. However, in a catchment scale, the satellite detection underestimated average LAI values approx. by 42–62 per cent. Changes in the observed rainfall interception reflected well the LAI variation.