Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



PNAS vol. 113, no. 46, 13087–13092


Open Access Article


In evergreen conifers, where the foliage amount changes little with season, accurate detection of the underlying “photosynthetic phenology” from satellite remote sensing has been difficult, presenting challenges for global models of ecosystem carbon uptake. Here, we report a close correspondence between seasonally changing foliar pigment levels, expressed as chlorophyll/carotenoid ratios, and evergreen photosynthetic activity, leading to a “chlorophyll/carotenoid index” (CCI) that tracks evergreen photosynthesis at multiple spatial scales. When calculated from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer satellite sensor, the CCI closely follows the seasonal patterns of daily gross primary productivity of evergreen conifer stands measured by eddy covariance. This discovery provides a way of monitoring evergreen photosynthetic activity from optical remote sensing, and indicates an important regulatory role for carotenoid pigments in evergreen photosynthesis. Improved methods of monitoring photosynthesis from space can improve our understanding of the global carbon budget in a warming world of changing vegetation phenology.