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Emerging satellite observations for diurnal cycling of ecosystem processes

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Abstract

Diurnal cycling of plant carbon uptake and water use, and their responses to water and heat stresses, provide direct insight into assessing ecosystem productivity, agricultural production and management practices, carbon and water cycles, and feedbacks to the climate. Temperature, light, atmospheric water demand, soil moisture and leaf water potential vary over the course of the day, leading to diurnal variations in stomatal conductance, photosynthesis and transpiration. Earth observations from polar-orbiting satellites are incapable of studying these diurnal variations. Here, we review the emerging satellite observations that have the potential for studying how plant functioning and ecosystem processes vary over the course of the diurnal cycle. The recently launched ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) and Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) provide land surface temperature, evapotranspiration (ET), gross primary production (GPP) and solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence data at different times of day. New generation operational geostationary satellites such as Himawari-8 and the GOES-R series can provide continuous, high-frequency data of land surface temperature, solar radiation, GPP and ET. Future satellite missions such as GeoCarb, TEMPO and Sentinel-4 are also planned to have diurnal sampling capability of solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence. We explore the unprecedented opportunities for characterizing and understanding how GPP, ET and water use efficiency vary over the course of the day in response to temperature and water stresses, and management practices. We also envision that these emerging observations will revolutionize studies of plant functioning and ecosystem processes in the context of climate change and that these observations and findings can inform agricultural and forest management and lead to improvements in Earth system models and climate projections.

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Fig. 1: Conceptual diagram of plant photosynthesis and transpiration over the course of a day.
Fig. 2: ECOSTRESS images from the Nile Delta within the same day.
Fig. 3: SIF at different times of the day as measured by the OCO-3 in SAM mode.
Fig. 4: Diurnal variations in plant photosynthesis derived from geostationary satellite data and a light-use efficiency model.
Fig. 5: The synergy between ECOSTRESS and OCO-3 data enables diurnal monitoring of WUE of terrestrial ecosystems.
Fig. 6: Synergistic use of observations from a geostationary satellite and two ISS instruments for studying diurnal cycling of ecosystem processes.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from https://earthdata.nasa.gov (ECOSTRESS), https://lpdaacsvc.cr.usgs.gov/appeears/ (ECOSTRESS), https://ocov3.jpl.nasa.gov/science/oco-3-data-center/ (OCO-3), http://data.ozflux.org.au (flux tower data), https://data.nas.nasa.gov/geonex/ (Himawari-8), ftp://hmwr829gr.cr.chiba-u.ac.jp/gridded/FD/V20151105/ (Himawari-8) and https://land.copernicus.eu/global/products/ (global geostationary satellite LST data).

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the NASA’s ECOSTRESS Science and Applications Team (80NSSC20K0167) (J.X.), NASA’s Climate Indicators and Data Products for Future National Climate Assessments (NNX16AG61G) (J.X.), the National Science Foundation (Macrosystem Biology & NEON-Enabled Science program: DEB-2017870, EF-1638688) (J.X.), NASA’s ECOSTRESS (J.B.F.), NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) from NASA’s Earth Science Division (H.H.), the Virtual Laboratory (VL) project by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan (K.I.), a research grant of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), KAKENHI (20K20487) (K.I.), and the Earth Science Division OCOST program (N.C.P.). J.B.F. and N.C.P. carried out their research at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA. California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged. A portion of these data were produced by the OCO-3 project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and obtained from the OCO-3 data archive at the NASA Goddard Earth Science Data and Information Services Center. G. Halverson provided ECOSTRESS visualization. Himawari-8 AHI-based LST data used in this study were provided by Y. Yamamoto, Chiba University, Japan.

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J.X. conceived the idea. J.X., J.B.F., H.H., K.I. and N.C.P. designed the research, conducted the analyses, interpreted the data and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Jingfeng Xiao.

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Xiao, J., Fisher, J.B., Hashimoto, H. et al. Emerging satellite observations for diurnal cycling of ecosystem processes. Nat. Plants 7, 877–887 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-021-00952-8

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