A remotely sensed pigment index reveals photosynthetic phenology in evergreen conifers

John A. Gamon, K. Fred Huemmrich, Christopher Y.S. Wong, Ingo Ensminger, Steven Garrity, David Y. Hollinger, Asko Noormets, Josep Peñuelask

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

239 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13087-13092
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 15 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • CCI
  • Carotenoid pigments
  • Chlorophyll/carotenoid index
  • Evergreen conifers
  • Gross primary productivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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