Diverse optical and photosynthetic properties in a neotropical dry forest during the dry season: Implications for remote estimation of photosynthesis

John A. Gamon, Kaoru Kitajima, Stephen S. Mulkey, Lydia Serrano, S. Joseph Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Using optical and photosynthetic assays from a canopy access crane, we examined the photosynthetic performance of tropical dry forest canopies during the dry season in Parque Metropolitano, Panama City, Panama. Photosynthetic gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence, and three indices derived from spectral reflectance (the normalized difference vegetation index, the simple ratio, and the photochemical reflectance index) were used as indicators of structural and physiological components of photosynthetic activity. Considerable interspecific variation was evident in structural and physiological behavior in this forest stand, which included varying degrees of foliage loss, altered leaf orientation, stomatal closure, and photosystem II downregulation. The normalized difference vegetation index and the simple ratio were closely related to canopy structure and absorbed radiation for most species, but failed to capture the widely divergent photosynthetic behavior among evergreen species exhibiting various degrees of downregulation. The photochemical reflectance index and chlorophyll fluorescence were related indicators of photosynthetic downregulation, which was not detectable with the normalized difference vegetation index or simple ratio. These results suggest that remote sensing methods that ignore downregulation cannot capture within-stand variability in actual carbon flux for this diverse forest type. Instead, these findings support a sampling approach that derives photosynthetic fluxes from a consideration of both canopy light absorption (e.g., normalized difference vegetation index) and photosynthetic light-use efficiency (e.g., photochemical reflectance index). Such sampling should improve our understanding of controls on photosynthetic carbon uptake in diverse tropical forest stands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-560
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • APAR
  • Biodiversity
  • Canopy crane
  • Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)
  • Photochemical reflectance index (PRI)
  • Photosynthetic downregulation
  • Radiation-use efficiency
  • Tropical dry forest
  • Xanthophyll cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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