Title: Integrating Remote Sensing, Flux Measurements and Ecosystem Models

Author: Faith Ann Heinsch, University of Montana

Faith Ann Heinsch is trained as an environmental physicist, receiving her Ph.D. in soil science from Texas A&M University. She has been with the University of Montana, Missoula, since 2002, where she is currently a Research Scientist with the Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group (NTSG) in the College of Forestry and Conservation. Her primary research interest is the development of local and regional ecosystem biogeochemical models by integration of remote sensing with climatology and terrestrial ecology. In addition to research, Dr. Heinsch teaches courses in both tree biology and climate change.


The North American Carbon Program (NACP) has been charged, in part, with measuring and understanding the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide in North America. The WLEF tall tower near Park Falls, WI, provides a unique look at regional-scale carbon fluxes. As part of a suite of 8 towers in the Chequamegon Ecosystem Atmosphere Study (ChEAS), WLEF is a valuable control on upscaling methods such as ecosystem process models. Scaling carbon flux information from the flux towers to the larger region requires a combination of remote sensing, ecosystem process modeling, and flux tower data. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) has provided remotely-sensed global estimates of gross primary production (GPP) and evapotranspiration (ET) since 2000. The Biome-BGC ecosystem process model has been used extensively to estimate water, carbon, nitrogen, and energy in a variety of ecosystems. Flux tower data from numerous sites, including the ChEAS suite of sites, have been used to verify and constrain both the remote sensing and ecosystem model outputs. The results of this comparison are presented, along with the challenges of combining three very different methods of obtaining information on sources and sinks of carbon dioxide.