Natural Resources, School of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Remote Sensing of Environment 156 (January 2015), pp. 196–201; doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2014.09.017


Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


A primary focus of this short communication is to show how the operational definition of light use efficiency (LUE) influences the results and interpretation of the LUE model. Our study was motivated by the observation that multiple LUE definitions are reported in the literature. The temporal behavior of three operational definitions of LUE, based on (i) incident radiation, (ii) total absorbed radiation and (iii) radiation absorbed by photosynthetically active/green vegetation was examined for two contrasting crops (soybean and maize) having different physiologies, leaf structures and canopy architectures. Over the course of a growing season, the behavior of these three contrasting LUE definitions was strikingly dissimilar, and the degree of dissimilarity varied with contrasting crops (corn and soybean). This demonstrates that LUE model behavior would vary strongly with the LUE definition used, with resulting implications both for the estimated seasonal productivity, and for the interpretation of the underlying mechanism. Based on these findings, we recommend a standard definition of the LUE model based on radiation absorbed by green vegetation. We also discuss the practical and theoretical implications of using this simple conceptual model on a dynamic biological system.