Modelling canopy photosynthesis using parameters determined from simple non-destructive measurements

Niels P.R. Anten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Most models for canopy photosynthesis require a large number of parameters as input which have to be determined by means of direct measurements. Such measurements are usually expensive, time consuming and destructive. The objective of the present study was, therefore, to develop a simple but accurate canopy photosynthesis model based on a minimum number of parameters that can be determined non-destructively. The results from previous studies were used to derive an empirical expression which describes the variation in leaf photosynthetic capacity (P(m)) as a function of the light distribution in the canopy. The light distribution itself was calculated with a simple model which assumes only three leaf angle classes (0-30°, 30-60°and 60-90°). The leaf area index was determined indirectly from measurements of direct radiation below the canopy. The result was a model for canopy photosynthesis that requires only a few parameters. These parameters are the leaf photosynthetic capacity at the top of the canopy, the relative frequency of leaves in each of the three leaf angle classes, and the fraction of direct radiation below the canopy. Each of these parameters can be determined by means of simple non-destructive measurements. The model was applied to dense stands of two monocoryledonous species: rice (Oryza sativa L.) and pearl millet (Pennisetum americanum (L.) K. Schum.). The rates of canopy photosynthesis thus calculated were compared to those obtained with a more elaborate reference model. The differences between the values obtained with the two models were small. The present photosynthesis model can, therefore, be considered to be a suitable alternative for the more elaborate model. It was further discussed that, since the model is based on purely non-destructive measurements, it will be particularly useful in cases where it is required to estimate canopy photosynthesis at regular intervals over a length of time or in stands of vegetation that cover large areas of land.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-88
JournalEcological Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • canopy
  • model
  • Oryza sativa
  • Pennisetum americanum
  • photosynthesis


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