Canopy water content (CWC) is important for understanding the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.
Biogeochemical processes like photosynthesis, transpiration and net primary production are related to foliar
water. The first derivative of the reflectance spectrum at wavelengths corresponding to the left slope of the
minor water absorption band at 970 nm was found to be highly correlated with CWC and PROSAIL model
simulations showed that it was insensitive to differences in leaf and canopy structure, soil background and
illumination and observation geometry. However, these wavelengths are also located close to the water
vapour absorption band at about 940 nm.
In order to avoid interference with absorption by atmospheric water vapour, the potential of estimating
CWC using the first derivative at the right slope of the 970 nm absorption feature was studied.
Measurements obtained with an ASD FieldSpec spectrometer for three test sites were related to CWC
(calculated as the difference between fresh and dry weight). The first site was a homogeneous grassland
parcel with a grass/clover mixture. The second site was a heterogeneous floodplain with natural vegetation
like grasses and various shrubs. The third site was an extensively grazed fen meadow.
Results for all three test sites showed that the first derivative of the reflectance spectrum at the right slope of
the 970 nm absorption feature was linearly correlated with CWC. Correlations were a bit lower than those at
the left slope (at 942.5 nm) as shown in previous studies, but better than those obtained with water band
indices. FieldSpec measurements showed that one may use any derivative around the middle of the right
slope within the interval between 1015 nm and 1050 nm. We calculated the average derivative at this
interval. The first site with grassland yielded an R2 of 0.39 for the derivative at the previously mentioned
interval with CWC (based on 20 samples). The second site at the heterogeneous floodplain yielded an R2 of
0.45 for this derivative with CWC (based on 14 samples). Finally, the third site with the fen meadow yielded
an R2 of 0.68 for this derivative with CWC (based on 40 samples). Regression lines between the derivative
at the right slope of the 970 nm absorption feature and CWC for all three test sites were similar although
vegetation types were quite different. This indicates that results may be transferable to other vegetation
types and other sites.