Characterizing boreal peatland plant composition and species diversity with hyperspectral remote sensing

Mara Y. McPartland, Michael J. Falkowski, Jason R. Reinhardt, Evan S. Kane, Randy Kolka, Merritt R. Turetsky, Thomas A. Douglas, John Anderson, Jarrod D. Edwards, Brian Palik, Rebecca A. Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Peatlands, which account for approximately 15% of land surface across the arctic and boreal regions of the globe, are experiencing a range of ecological impacts as a result of climate change. Factors that include altered hydrology resulting from drought and permafrost thaw, rising temperatures, and elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have been shown to cause plant community compositional changes. Shifts in plant composition affect the productivity, species diversity, and carbon cycling of peatlands. We used hyperspectral remote sensing to characterize the response of boreal peatland plant composition and species diversity to warming, hydrologic change, and elevated CO2. Hyperspectral remote sensing techniques offer the ability to complete landscape-scale analyses of ecological responses to climate disturbance when paired with plot-level measurements that link ecosystem biophysical properties with spectral reflectance signatures. Working within two large ecosystem manipulation experiments, we examined climate controls on composition and diversity in two types of common boreal peatlands: a nutrient rich fen located at the Alaska Peatland Experiment (APEX) in central Alaska, and an ombrotrophic bog located in northern Minnesota at the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) experiment. We found a strong effect of plant functional cover on spectral reflectance characteristics. We also found a positive relationship between species diversity and spectral variation at the APEX field site, which is consistent with other recently published findings. Based on the results of our field study, we performed a supervised land cover classification analysis on an aerial hyperspectral dataset to map peatland plant functional types (PFTs) across an area encompassing a range of different plant communities. Our results underscore recent advances in the application of remote sensing measurements to ecological research, particularly in far northern ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1685
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors.


  • Arctic
  • Boreal
  • Hyperspectral
  • Land cover
  • Peatlands
  • Remote sensing
  • Species diversity


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