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Posts from the ‘ACCUPAR LP-80’ Category

A different approach to stream restoration

University of Idaho graduate student, Adrianne Zuckerman, is taking a different approach to stream restoration than the traditional approach, channel manipulation, which often requires heavy equipment and major disruption to the riparian area.

Zuckerman set out to understand how vegetation lining the stream bank impacts habitat quality for anadromous salmon and steelhead in Washington’s Methow River, which flows through the eastern Cascades. Zuckerman wanted to know how tree species composition affects the amount of nutrients available to the benthic insect community, since they are a critical food source for young salmonid fish.

When Zuckerman began investigating methods for measuring leaf contribution to the stream, she found that leaf litter traps were the standard equipment. Leaf litter traps are time-consuming to set and maintain, and data analysis consists of frequent visits to the field followed by extensive time in the lab processing leaf material.

Stream with rocks and trees

Looking for an alternative method, she discovered the LP-80 ceptometer: a lightweight, field-portable instrument for measuring leaf area index. Using the LP-80, Zuckerman was able to rapidly assess the leaf area contribution of each tree species along the riparian corridor. Using this information, it was relatively straightforward for her to estimate the contribution of each tree species to the stream food web.

Zuckerman’s research will help land managers and other researchers understand the importance of riparian vegetation for maximizing the food available to salmonid fish species. Improvement and maintenance of optimal stream-side vegetation composition should ultimately help to enhance salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest.

How To Estimate the Impact of Radiation Sources in the Environment

What impact does direct solar radiation have on the overall radiation balance? Dr. Colin Campbell, WSU Environmental Biophysics professor and METER scientist, shows you how to do the calculations in our latest chalk talk.


Hi, I’m Dr. Colin Campbell. And this is a METER Chalk Talk.

Have you ever been outside on a hot day walking in the full sun and then stepped into the shade? The relief is almost immediate. And I was thinking about that a lot when I was looking at this graph here, the estimated crop water loss on one of my experiments.

So this is an ET zero, meaning a reference ET. But since I was working grass, that was actually the estimated water loss from this grass crop. And what I noticed was that the shape of this curve kind of went up, and then went down. And it kind of matched right here, the solstice, the summer solstice. And in my mind, I thought, you know, what impact is direct solar radiation have on the overall radiation balance? Well, we can quickly just jump down and look at the equation that talks about how we might estimate the evapotranspiration from a crop. I’m not going to be able to have time here to get into what each of these variables mean.

But as you see, solar absorbed radiation, R abs is a strong component of that overall calculation. Now, when we talk about absorbed radiation, we need to understand that it’s not just all direct sunlight. In fact, if you assumed that, you’d be off in the weeds quite a bit, because it contains components of both longwave radiation, which is radiation that’s coming from your terrestrial surroundings, and shortwave radiation, that which is coming from predominantly the sun.

So let’s talk about that for a minute. With absorbed radiation, we have shortwave radiation. This is radiation that’s less than four micrometers. And we have longwave radiation. This is not surprisingly, from wavelengths greater than four micrometers. Now, this shortwave radiation, this comes from the sun longwave radiation comes from other sources, like trees, the sky, ground, just other objects that are around the temperature that we expect in the natural environment. Now, the truth of the matter is to get R abs, we need to combine both of these things into a single number. And it actually gets even more complex than that. So bear with us as we go on to the next equation.

R abs is a function of both shortwave radiation and long wave radiation. And when we calculate our radiation balance to get absorbed radiation, we have to actually take all of this into account. Now, you might be wondering, what are the other pieces in this equation, we’re going to spend a little time going over that. So you might understand how we can get from all of these numbers, all of these potential sources of radiation to a final number of R abs.

This portion of the equation here is shortwave radiation. And we’re going to talk about the variables in that equation. The first one we see is alpha s. It’s a number between zero and one. It signifies the percentage of shortwave radiation that the object can absorb. The other parameters in the equation include some F’s and some S’s. The F’s we call view factors, we’ll discuss view factors in more detail in another chalk talk. But suffice it to say that these essentially are parameters to estimate the amount of radiation that our object can see in its surroundings.

S stands for shortwave radiation. And this comes from several different sources. They include p: this is radiation that’s coming directly from the sun. That’s the one I mentioned earlier, that we feel if we’re standing in the direct sun, versus if we walk into the shade. But there are a couple of others. One is diffuse. This is the radiation that’s scattered as light comes into our atmosphere and it’s scattered by the atmosphere.

Finally, there’s R. This is reflected radiation, radiation that when it comes in, hits a surface, it reflects off that surface and comes and impinges on our object. Think about snow. If you’ve ever been skiing or out on the snow, you know, on a sunny day, you’re getting a lot of radiation that’s being reflected back. This portion of the equation over here is our longwave portion. Similar to our shortwave, it contains many of the same symbols, but they’re a little bit different.

The alpha L is the absorbed radiation. Now in the long wave that also goes from zero to one. The F is our view factor again, but now the view factor of longwave radiation, and L stands for that longwave radiation. This time, the subscripts A, that stands for atmosphere, and G stands for ground. If we put together all components in this equation, we’ll be able to solve for absorbed radiation. But that’s going to take a little bit of work. First, we need to understand the absorptivity of our surface both in the shortwave and the longwave.

The shortwave typically is calculated just from tables from looking out on the internet. For example, if I wanted to look at the absorptivity of a maple leaf, that’s typically around 50%. But it’s something that’s probably been calculated in literature. For our longwave radiation, almost all objects absorb long wave radiation at about 97 to 98% of the possible total.

So it’s pretty easy to estimate these absorptivities for objects that are fairly common. Calculating solar radiation and long wave radiation take a little bit more time. And especially understanding the view factors or how much of a particular surface our object sees, is going to take a whole chalk talk on its own. We’re going to leave this discussion here and leave for next time an opportunity to talk about how to calculate our shortwave radiation, or long wave radiation, and then get to the complicated discussion of view factors.

For more content like this, head over to our YouTube channel, or go to Thanks for watching METER chalk talks.

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Understanding the Language of Plants

Like a silent battle cry, plants call out to signal they are under siege as a warning to other plants and to call in reinforcements to fend off the invasion.

How does this communication work? What else are plants doing to protect themselves from disease and predators alike? In our latest podcast, Natalie Aguirre, a PhD candidate and plant physiology and chemical ecology researcher at Texas A&M University, dives into her research on pathogen infection, water stress, and how plants communicate and defend themselves.



Natalie Aguirre graduated with a degree in biology from Pepperdine University, where she completed an honors thesis conducting research on the interaction of drought stress and pathogen infection in chaparral shrubs. She then spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Spain, studying the effect of water stress on Dutch Elm Disease. Most recently, Natalie worked for the Everglades Foundation, creating educational programs and materials about the Florida Everglades.

Links to learn more about Natalie Aguirre

Publications by Natalie Aguirre

Natalie Aguirre on Loop Open Science Research Network


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Our scientists have decades of experience helping researchers and growers measure the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. 


The views and opinions expressed in the podcast and on this posting are those of the individual speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions held by METER.

Episode 9: Pioneers of Environmental Measurement

What was the life of a scientist like before modern measurement techniques? In our latest podcast, Campbell Scientific’s Ed Swiatek and METER’s Dr. Gaylon Campbell discuss their association with three pioneers of environmental measurement.

Learn what it was like to practice science on the cutting edge. Discover the creative lengths they went to and what crazy things they cobbled together to get the measurements they needed.

Listen now—>

PRI & the Power of Spectral Indices

In this brief 30-minute webinar, Dr. John Gammon, University of Alberta, teaches the basics of the Photochemical Reflectance Index (PRI).

Looking up bark into a tree canopy

He gives an introduction to the photochemical reflectance index and what it can tell researchers about xanthophyll cycle activity, carotenoid: chlorophyll pigment ratios, light-use efficiency, and plant stress. He also discusses remote sensing.

Topics include:

  • Energy distribution in a leaf
  • Leaf optical changes upon shade removal
  • Photosynthetic light response curve
  • Uses as a stress indicator
  • Temporal and spacial patterns in photoprotection
  • How does photoprotection vary with tree age?
  • Kinetics: sun vs. shade
  • Applications
  • Can it “scale”?
  • Light-use efficiency model

Watch the webinar

More canopy webinars:

Using PRI to Monitor Crop Stress

Leaf Area Index: Theory, Measurement, and Application

NDVI and PRI: Measurement, Theory, and Application

Get more info on applied environmental research in our

See the “Researcher’s complete guide to leaf area index (LAI)—>

Download the “Researcher’s complete guide to soil moisture”—>

How to Assess Maximum Potential Biomass Production—Simplified

The conversion of light energy and atmospheric carbon dioxide to plant biomass is fundamentally important to both agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Image of potato crops in a field

Potato field

The detailed biophysical and biochemical processes by which this occurs are well understood. At a less-detailed level, however, it is often useful to have a simple model that can be used to understand and analyze parts of an ecosystem. Such a model has been provided by Monteith (1977). He observed that when biomass accumulation by a plant community is plotted as a function of the accumulated solar radiation intercepted by the community, the result is a straight line. Figure 1 shows Monteith’s results.

Total dry matter produced by a crop as a function of total intercepted radiation in a diagram

Figure 1. Total dry matter produced by a crop as a function of total intercepted radiation (from Monteith, 1977).

Read more

Download the “Researcher’s complete guide to water potential”—>

Download the “Researcher’s complete guide to soil moisture”—>

Measuring Light and Photosynthesis (PAR): Complicated, but Worth It (Part 2)

In part 2 of our PAR Measurement Series (read part 1), Dr. Gaylon S. Campbell discusses the impact of leaf arrangement, measuring light in a canopy, and why we measure PAR.

Picture of purple tipped green leaves

Vertical leaves absorb less radiation when the sun is at a high angle, and more radiation when the sun is at a low angle; the converse is true for horizontal leaves.

Leaf Arrangement

Leaf display (angular orientation) affects light interception. Strictly vertical or horizontally oriented leaves are extreme cases, but a large range of angles occurs. Vertical leaves absorb less radiation when the sun is at a high angle, and more radiation when the sun is at a low angle; the converse is true for horizontal leaves. The greatest photosynthetic capacity can be achieved by a change from nearly vertical to nearly horizontal leaves lower down. This arrangement leads to effective beam penetration and a more even distribution of light.

Green pine tree with baby pinecones

The highest LAI’s usually occur in coniferous forests.

Leaf area index (LAI), a measure of the foliage in a canopy, is the canopy property that has most effect on interception of radiation. LAI usually ranges between 1 and 12. Values of 3-4 are typical for horizontal-leafed species such as alfalfa; values of 5-10 occur in vertical leafed species such as grasses and cereals, or in plants with highly clumped leaves, such as spruce. The highest LAI’s usually occur in coniferous forests, which have overlapping generations of leaves. These forests have a photosynthetic advantage due to the longevity of individual needles.

Sunlight shining through green leaf canopy

PAR must be measured at a number of locations and then averaged.

Measuring Light in a Canopy

Variability of leaf distribution in canopies results in wide variations in light. To determine light at any height in the canopy, PAR must be measured at a number of locations and then averaged. Direct methods of measurement include using the horizontal line sensors whose output is the spatial average over the sensor length. The appropriate sensor length or number of sampling points depends on plant spacing.

Indirect methods for measuring canopy structure rely on the fact that canopy structure and solar position determine the radiation within the canopy. Because it’s hard to measure three-dimensional distribution of leaves in a canopy, models for light interception and tree growth often assume random distribution throughout the canopy; however, leaves are generally aggregated or grouped.

Close up of leafs with little dew droplets on them

Models for light interception and tree growth often assume random distribution throughout the canopy; however, leaves are generally aggregated or grouped.

Why Measure Photosynthesis or PAR?

The ability to measure PAR assists with understanding the unique spatial patterns that different plants have for displaying photosynthetic surfaces. Since effective use of PAR influences plant production, knowledge of the structural diversity of canopies aids research on plant productivity. One result: researchers can use information about different plants’ abilities to intercept and use PAR to engineer canopy structure modifications that significantly improve crop yield.

View our LAI application guide, or learn more about how researchers and growers use PAR measurement to improve crop yields.

Get more information on applied environmental research in our

See the “Researcher’s complete guide to leaf area index (LAI)—>

Download the “Researcher’s complete guide to soil moisture”—>

Measuring Light and Photosynthesis (PAR): Complicated, but Worth It

Dr. Gaylon S. Campbell discusses how to measure light and photosynthesis (PAR) in canopies and why it’s helpful to researchers.

Dandelion with a bright sun shining on it

The source of all energy on earth is the sun.

The ultimate source of all energy on earth is the sun. Availability of this energy to most organisms occurs through photosynthesis, the conversion of CO2 and H2O to carbohydrates (stored energy) and O2. Photosynthesis occurs when pigments in photosynthesizers absorb the energy of photons, initiating a chain of photochemical and chemical events. Where does this energy and material exchange occur? In plant canopies. The amount of photosynthesis that occurs in canopies depends on the amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) intercepted by leaves in canopies.

Leaf in sunlight on a tree

In canopies, leaves function collectively.

It’s More Complicated Than You Might Think

The rate at which photosynthesis occurs in one leaf might be calculated, but in canopies, leaves function collectively. Extrapolating photosynthesis from individual leaves to entire canopies is complex; the sheer numbers of leaves and their arrangement in the canopy structure can be overwhelming. Leaf area, inclination, and orientation all affect the degree to which light is captured and used in a canopy.

Tree canopy with sunlight breaking through the leaves

Average light level decreases exponentially downward through the canopy.

What Happens to Light in a Canopy?

Light varies dramatically both spatially and temporally through canopies. The average light level decreases more or less exponentially downward through the canopy, as the amount of leaf surface encountered increases. For some canopies, the greatest amount of leaf area occurs near the center. Therefore, canopy structure analysis becomes increasingly complex as one proceeds from a single plant to stands of the same plant, or to plant communities because of the variety of plants and growth forms.

Picture looking up from the ground at a tree canopy with sunlight breaking through the leaves

Photosynthesis depends on leaf orientation.

Absorption of radiation and resulting photosynthesis depend on leaf orientation, sun elevation in the sky, spectral distribution and multiple reflections of light, and the arrangement of leaves. Patterns of light and shaded areas can be complicated and change with the sun’s position. In addition, seasonality of foliage can result in fairly small canopy interception of PAR for much of the year. PAR might also be intercepted by non-photosynthetic parts of plants (bark, flowers, etc).

In two weeks:  Dr. Campbell discusses the impact of leaf arrangement, measuring light in a canopy, and why we measure PAR.

Download the “Researcher’s complete guide to soil moisture”—>

Download the “Researcher’s complete guide to leaf area index (LAI)”—>

Get more information on applied environmental research in our