Two independent methods of estimating gross ecosystem production (GEP) were compared over a period of 2 years at monthly integrals for a mixed forest of conifers and deciduous hardwoods at Harvard Forest in central Massachusetts. Continuous eddy flux measurements of net ecosystem exchange (NEE) provided one estimate of GEP by taking day to night temperature differences into account to estimate autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration. GEP was also estimated with a quantum efficiency model based on measurements of maximum quantum efficiency (Qmax), seasonal variation in canopy phenology and chlorophyll content, incident PAR, and the constraints of freezing temperatures and vapour pressure deficits on stomatal conductance. Quantum efficiency model estimates of GEP and those derived from eddy flux measurements compared well at monthly integrals over two consecutive years (R2= 0–98).
Remotely sensed data were acquired seasonally with an ultralight aircraft to provide a means of scaling the leaf area and leaf pigmentation changes that affected the light absorption of photosynthetically active radiation to larger areas. A linear correlation between chlorophyll concentrations in the upper canopy leaves of four hardwood species and their quantum efficiencies (R2= 0–99) suggested that seasonal changes in quantum efficiency for the entire canopy can be quantified with remotely sensed indices of chlorophyll. Analysis of video data collected from the ultralight aircraft indicated that the fraction of conifer cover varied from < 7% near the instrument tower to about 25% for a larger sized area. At 25% conifer cover, the quantum efficiency model predicted an increase in the estimate of annual GEP of < 5% because unfavourable environmental conditions limited conifer photosynthesis in much of the non-growing season when hardwoods lacked leaves.