The Global LAI project

This project compiles and analyses canopy structure data estimated using hemispherical photography in natural and man-made biomes of the tropics. Our aim is to understand climate and disturbance dependencies of tropical canopy structure, i.e. leaf area (LAI), fractional vegetation cover (FCover) and fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (fAPAR).

This project is led by Dr Marion Pfeifer (School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, SNES, Newcastle University, UK) and Dr Philip Platts (University of York). Contact: marion.pfeifer[at]newcastle[] or philip.platts [at] york []

Marion established the LAI project during her Marie Curie Intra-European fellowship at KITE, the University of York. Since 2014, Marion and Phil have been expanding the database from its core focus in East Africa to other biogeographic realms.


Context: This project fills a massive data gap for tropical ecosystems (Pfeifer et al. 2012 Rem Sens Env 118) which limits our ability to model climate-vegetation feedbacks and validate outputs of ecosystem process models. Whilst earth observation products do a fairly good job in approximating characteristics of land surface properties at global scales (reviewed by Pfeifer et al.  2011 Global Ecol Biogeogr 21), we also show that they struggle in heterogeneous landscapes and at landscape scales (Pfeifer et al. 2014 Rem Sens 6). This is an important caveat, because we know that processes at local scales regulate ecosystem functions, for example at SAFE (Hardwick et al. 2015 Agr For Meteor 201). Changes in these functions, in turn, will affect ecosystem processes such as trophic networks, as we show for invertebrates at SAFE (Ewers et al. In Press. Nature Clim Change) and for carbon storage and herbaceous plant growth in Tanzania (Shirima et al. Submitted. PLOS One).

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