Alexandre Roy


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Environmental controls of non-growing season carbon dioxide fluxes in boreal and tundra environments
Alex Mavrovic, Oliver Sonnentag, Juha Lemmetyinen, Carolina Voigt, Nick Rutter, P. Mann, Jean‐Daniel Sylvain, Alexandre Roy

Abstract. The carbon cycle in Arctic-boreal regions (ABR) is an important component of the planetary carbon balance, with growing concerns about the consequences of ABR warming on the global climate system. The greatest uncertainty in annual carbon dioxide (CO2) budgets exists during the non-growing season, primarily due to challenges with data availability and limited spatial coverage in measurements. The goal of this study was to determine the main environmental controls of non-growing season CO2 fluxes in ABR over a latitudinal gradient (45° N to 69° N) featuring four different ecosystem types: closed-crown coniferous boreal forest, open-crown coniferous boreal forest, erect-shrub tundra, and prostrate-shrub tundra. CO2 fluxes calculated using a snowpack diffusion gradient method (n = 560) ranged from 0 to 1.05 gC m2 day-1. To assess the dominant environmental controls governing CO2 fluxes, a Random Forest machine learning approach was used. We identified that soil temperature as the main control of non-growing season CO2 fluxes with 68 % of relative model importance, except when soil liquid water occurred during zero degree Celsius curtain conditions (Tsoil ≈ 0 °C and liquid water coexists with ice in soil pores). Under zero-curtain conditions, liquid water content became the main control of CO2 fluxes with 87 % of relative model importance. We observed exponential regressions between CO2 fluxes and soil temperature (RMSE = 0.024 gC m-2 day-1) in frozen soils, as well as liquid water content (RMSE = 0.137 gC m-2 day-1) in zero-curtain conditions. This study is showing the role of several variables on the spatio-temporal variability of CO2 fluxes in ABR during the non-growing season and highlight that the complex vegetation-snow-soil interactions in northern environments must be considered when studying what drives the spatial variability of soil carbon emission during the non-growing season.


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What explains the year-to-year variation in growing season timing of boreal black spruce forests?
Mariam El-Amine, Alexandre Roy, Franziska Koebsch, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Alan Barr, Andrew Black, Hiroki Ikawa, Hiroyasu Iwata, Hideki Kobayashi, Masahito Ueyama, Oliver Sonnentag
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 324

Amplified climate warming in high latitudes is expected to affect growing season timing of the vast boreal biome. It is unclear whether the presence of permafrost (perennially frozen ground) might have an influence on changes in growing season timing. This study examined how different environmental variables explained, either directly or indirectly, the variation in growing season timing of boreal forest stands with and without permafrost. We expected that environmental variables explaining the variation in growing season timing differed or had different explanatory power depending on permafrost presence or absence. The growing season was delineated from daily gross primary productivity (GPP) time series derived from 40 site-year data of net ecosystem carbon dioxide exchange measured with eddy covariance techniques over five black spruce (Picea mariana [Mill.])-dominated boreal forest stands in North America. In permafrost-free forest stands, a combination of start in canopy ‘green-up’ in spring and the timing of air and soil temperature increasing above freezing explained the start-of-season (SOSGPP). Results from commonality analysis and structural equation modeling suggest that canopy ‘green-up’ and air temperature directly affected SOSGPP in permafrost-free forest stands. In addition, soil temperature acted as mediator for an indirect effect of air temperature on SOSGPP. In contrast, none of the environmental variables, or their combination, explained the variation in SOSGPP in forest stands with permafrost. The explanatory power of environmental variables was more consistent regarding the end-of-season (EOSGPP). In both, forest stands with and without permafrost, EOSGPP was directly explained by mean soil water content in the fall and the first day of continuous snowpack formation. A better understanding how environmental variables control SOSGPP and EOSGPP in forest stands with and without permafrost will help to refine parameterizations of the boreal biome in Earth system models.

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A comparison of three surface roughness characterization techniques: photogrammetry, pin profiler, and smartphone-based LiDAR
Zohreh Alijani, Julien Meloche, Alexander McLaren, John B. Lindsay, Alexandre Roy, Aaron Berg
International Journal of Digital Earth, Volume 15, Issue 1

Surface roughness plays an important role in microwave remote sensing. In the agricultural domain, surface roughness is crucial for soil moisture retrieval methods that use electromagnetic surface scattering or microwave radiative transfer models. Therefore, improved characterization of Soil Surface Roughness (SSR) is of considerable importance. In this study, three approaches, including a standard pin profiler, a LiDAR point cloud generated from an iPhone 12 Pro, and a Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetric point cloud, were applied over 24 surface profiles with different roughness variations to measure surface roughness. The objective of this study was to evaluate the capability of smartphone-based LiDAR technology to measure surface roughness parameters and compare the results of this technique with the more common approaches. Results showed that the iPhone LiDAR technology, when point cloud data is captured in a fine-resolution mode, has a significant correlation with SfM photogrammetry (R2 = 0.70) and a relatively close agreement with pin profiler (R2 = 0.60). However, this accuracy tends to be greater for random surfaces and rough profiles with row structure orientations. The results of this study confirm that smartphone-based LiDAR can be used as a cost-effective, fast, and time-efficient alternative tool for measuring surface roughness, especially for rough, wide, and inaccessible areas.


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L-band vegetation optical depth as an indicator of plant water potential in a temperate deciduous forest stand
Nataniel M. Holtzman, Leander D. L. Anderegg, Simon Kraatz, Alex Mavrovic, Oliver Sonnentag, Christoforos Pappas, Michael H. Cosh, Alexandre Langlois, Tarendra Lakhankar, Derek Tesser, N. Steiner, Andreas Colliander, Alexandre Roy, Alexandra G. Konings
Biogeosciences, Volume 18, Issue 2

Abstract. Vegetation optical depth (VOD) retrieved from microwave radiometry correlates with the total amount of water in vegetation, based on theoretical and empirical evidence. Because the total amount of water in vegetation varies with relative water content (as well as with biomass), this correlation further suggests a possible relationship between VOD and plant water potential, a quantity that drives plant hydraulic behavior. Previous studies have found evidence for that relationship on the scale of satellite pixels tens of kilometers across, but these comparisons suffer from significant scaling error. Here we used small-scale remote sensing to test the link between remotely sensed VOD and plant water potential. We placed an L-band radiometer on a tower above the canopy looking down at red oak forest stand during the 2019 growing season in central Massachusetts, United States. We measured stem xylem and leaf water potentials of trees within the stand and retrieved VOD with a single-channel algorithm based on continuous radiometer measurements and measured soil moisture. VOD exhibited a diurnal cycle similar to that of leaf and stem water potential, with a peak at approximately 05:00 eastern daylight time (UTC−4). VOD was also positively correlated with both the measured dielectric constant and water potentials of stem xylem over the growing season. The presence of moisture on the leaves did not affect the observed relationship between VOD and stem water potential. We used our observed VOD–water-potential relationship to estimate stand-level values for a radiative transfer parameter and a plant hydraulic parameter, which compared well with the published literature. Our findings support the use of VOD for plant hydraulic studies in temperate forests.

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Tower‐Based Remote Sensing Reveals Mechanisms Behind a Two‐phased Spring Transition in a Mixed‐Species Boreal Forest
Zoe Pierrat, Magali F. Nehemy, Alexandre Roy, Troy S. Magney, Nicholas C. Parazoo, Colin P. Laroque, Christoforos Pappas, Oliver Sonnentag, Katja Großmann, David R. Bowling, Ulli Seibt, Alexandra Ramirez, Bruce Johnson, Warren Helgason, Alan Barr, J. Stutz
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, Volume 126, Issue 5

The boreal forest is a major contributor to the global climate system, therefore, reducing uncertainties in how the forest will respond to a changing climate is critical. One source of uncertainty is the timing and drivers of the spring transition. Remote sensing can provide important information on this transition, but persistent foliage greenness, seasonal snow cover, and a high prevalence of mixed forest stands (both deciduous and evergreen species) complicate interpretation of these signals. We collected tower-based remotely sensed data (reflectance-based vegetation indices and Solar-Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence [SIF]), stem radius measurements, gross primary productivity, and environmental conditions in a boreal mixed forest stand. Evaluation of this data set shows a two-phased spring transition. The first phase is the reactivation of photosynthesis and transpiration in evergreens, marked by an increase in relative SIF, and is triggered by thawed stems, warm air temperatures, and increased available soil moisture. The second phase is a reduction in bulk photoprotective pigments in evergreens, marked by an increase in the Chlorophyll-Carotenoid Index. Deciduous leaf-out occurs during this phase, marked by an increase in all remotely sensed metrics. The second phase is controlled by soil thaw. Our results demonstrate that remote sensing metrics can be used to detect specific physiological changes in boreal tree species during the spring transition. The two-phased transition explains inconsistencies in remote sensing estimates of the timing and drivers of spring recovery. Our results imply that satellite-based observations will improve by using a combination of vegetation indices and SIF, along with species distribution information.

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Soil dielectric characterization during freeze–thaw transitions using L-band coaxial and soil moisture probes
Alex Mavrovic, Renato Pardo Lara, Aaron Berg, François Demontoux, A. Royer, Alexandre Roy
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Volume 25, Issue 3

Abstract. Soil microwave permittivity is a crucial parameter in passive microwave retrieval algorithms but remains a challenging variable to measure. To validate and improve satellite microwave data products, precise and reliable estimations of the relative permittivity (εr=ε/ε0=ε′-jε′′; unitless) of soils are required, particularly for frozen soils. In this study, permittivity measurements were acquired using two different instruments: the newly designed open-ended coaxial probe (OECP) and the conventional Stevens HydraProbe. Both instruments were used to characterize the permittivity of soil samples undergoing several freeze–thaw cycles in a laboratory environment. The measurements were compared to soil permittivity models. The OECP measured frozen (εfrozen′=[3.5; 6.0], εfrozen′′=[0.46; 1.2]) and thawed (εthawed′=[6.5; 22.8], εthawed′′=[1.43; 5.7]) soil microwave permittivity. We also demonstrate that cheaper and widespread soil permittivity probes operating at lower frequencies (i.e., Stevens HydraProbe) can be used to estimate microwave permittivity given proper calibration relative to an L-band (1–2 GHz) probe. This study also highlighted the need to improve dielectric soil models, particularly during freeze–thaw transitions. There are still important discrepancies between in situ and modeled estimates and no current model accounts for the hysteresis effect shown between freezing and thawing processes, which could have a significant impact on freeze–thaw detection from satellites.


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Aboveground tree growth is a minor and decoupled fraction of boreal forest carbon input
Christoforos Pappas, Jason Maillet, Sharon Rakowski, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Alan G. Barr, T. Andrew Black, Simone Fatichi, Colin P. Laroque, Ashley M. Matheny, Alexandre Roy, Oliver Sonnentag, Tianshan Zha
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 290

• We reconstructed time series of boreal tree growth with a biometric approach. • Aboveground tree growth was a minor and decoupled fraction of carbon input. • Partitioned estimates of tree carbon sink are valuable observational constraints. • Such observational constraints can be used for model validation and policy making. The boreal biome accounts for approximately one third of the terrestrial carbon (C) sink. However, estimates of its individual C pools remain uncertain. Here, focusing on the southern boreal forest, we quantified the magnitude and temporal dynamics of C allocation to aboveground tree growth at a mature black spruce ( Picea mariana )-dominated forest stand in Saskatchewan, Canada. We reconstructed aboveground tree biomass increments (AGBi) using a biometric approach, i.e., species-specific allometry combined with forest stand characteristics and tree ring widths collected with a C-oriented sampling design. We explored the links between boreal tree growth and ecosystem C input by comparing AGBi with eddy-covariance-derived ecosystem C fluxes from 1999 to 2015 and we synthesized our findings with a refined meta-analysis of published values of boreal forest C use efficiency (CUE). Mean AGBi at the study site was decoupled from ecosystem C input and equal to 71 ± 7 g C m –2 (1999–2015), which is only a minor fraction of gross ecosystem production (GEP; i.e., AGBi / GEP ≈ 9 %). Moreover, C allocation to AGBi remained stable over time (AGBi / GEP; –0.0001 yr –1 ; p -value=0.775), contrary to significant trends in GEP (+5.72 g C m –2 yr –2 ; p -value=0.02) and CUE (–0.0041 yr –1 , p -value=0.007). CUE was estimated as 0.50 ± 0.03 at the study area and 0.41 ± 0.12 across the reviewed boreal forests. These findings highlight the importance of belowground tree C investments, together with the substantial contribution of understory, ground cover and soil to the boreal forest C balance. Our quantitative insights into the dynamics of aboveground boreal tree C allocation offer additional observational constraints for terrestrial ecosystem models that are often biased in converting C input to biomass, and can guide forest-management strategies for mitigating carbon dioxide emissions.

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L-Band response to freeze/thaw in a boreal forest stand from ground- and tower-based radiometer observations
Alexandre Roy, Peter Toose, Alex Mavrovic, Christoforos Pappas, A. Royer, Chris Derksen, Aaron Berg, Tracy Rowlandson, Mariam El-Amine, Alan G. Barr, Andrew Black, Alexandre Langlois, Oliver Sonnentag
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 237

Abstract The extent, timing and duration of seasonal freeze/thaw (FT) state exerts dominant control on boreal forest carbon, water and energy cycle processes. Recent and on-going L-Band (≈1.4 GHz) spaceborne missions have the potential to provide enhanced information on FT state over large geographic regions with rapid revisit time. However, the low spatial resolution of these spaceborne observations (≈45 km) makes it difficult to isolate the primary contributions (soil, vegetation, snow) to the FT signal in boreal forest. To better quantify these controls, two L-Band radiometers were deployed (September 2016 to July 2017) at a black spruce (Picea mariana) dominated boreal forest site; one unit above and one unit on the ground surface below the canopy to disentangle the microwave contributions of overstory canopy, and the ground surface on the FT brightness temperature (TB) signal. Bi-weekly multi-angular measurements from both units were combined in order to estimate effective scattering albedo (ω) and the microwave vegetative optical depth (τ), using the τ-ω microwave vegetation radiative transfer model. Soil moisture probes were inserted in the trunk of two black spruce and one larch (Larix laricina) trunks located in the footprint of the above-canopy radiometer to measure tree trunk relative dielectric constant (RDCtree). Results showed a strong relationship between RDCtree and tree skin temperature (Ttree) under freezing temperature conditions, which led to a gradual decrease of τ in winter. During the spring thawing period in April and May, τ remained relatively stable. In contrast, it increased substantially in June, most likely in relation to the growing season onset. Overall, τ was related to the seasonal RDCtree cycle (r = 0.76). Regarding ω, a value of 0.086 (±0.029) was obtained, but no dependency on Ttree or RDCtree was observed. Despite the observed impact of FT on vegetation L-Band signals, results from continuous TB observations spanning from 14 September 2016 to 25 May 2017, indicated that the main contribution to the observed L-Band TB freeze-up signal in the fall originated from the ground surface. The above-canopy unit showed some sensitivity to overstory canopy FT, yet the sensitivity was lower compared to the signal induced by the ground FT. In April and May, L-Band radiometer FT retrieval agreed closely to the melt onset detection using RDCtree but it was likely related to the coincident presence of liquid water in the snow. Our findings have important applications to L-Band spaceborne FT algorithm development and validation across the boreal forest. More specifically, our findings allow better quantification of the potential effect of frozen ground on various biogeophysical and biogeochemical processes in boreal forests.


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Effect of snow microstructure variability on Ku-band radar snow water equivalent retrievals
Nick Rutter, Melody Sandells, Chris Derksen, Joshua King, Peter Toose, Leanne Wake, Tom Watts, Richard Essery, Alexandre Roy, A. Royer, Philip Marsh, C. F. Larsen, Matthew Sturm
The Cryosphere, Volume 13, Issue 11

Abstract. Spatial variability in snowpack properties negatively impacts our capacity to make direct measurements of snow water equivalent (SWE) using satellites. A comprehensive data set of snow microstructure (94 profiles at 36 sites) and snow layer thickness (9000 vertical profiles across nine trenches) collected over two winters at Trail Valley Creek, NWT, Canada, was applied in synthetic radiative transfer experiments. This allowed for robust assessment of the impact of estimation accuracy of unknown snow microstructural characteristics on the viability of SWE retrievals. Depth hoar layer thickness varied over the shortest horizontal distances, controlled by subnivean vegetation and topography, while variability in total snowpack thickness approximated that of wind slab layers. Mean horizontal correlation lengths of layer thickness were less than a metre for all layers. Depth hoar was consistently ∼30 % of total depth, and with increasing total depth the proportion of wind slab increased at the expense of the decreasing surface snow layer. Distinct differences were evident between distributions of layer properties; a single median value represented density and specific surface area (SSA) of each layer well. Spatial variability in microstructure of depth hoar layers dominated SWE retrieval errors. A depth hoar SSA estimate of around 7 % under the median value was needed to accurately retrieve SWE. In shallow snowpacks <0.6 m, depth hoar SSA estimates of ±5 %–10 % around the optimal retrieval SSA allowed SWE retrievals within a tolerance of ±30 mm. Where snowpacks were deeper than ∼30 cm, accurate values of representative SSA for depth hoar became critical as retrieval errors were exceeded if the median depth hoar SSA was applied.


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The influence of snow microstructure on dual-frequency radar measurements in a tundra environment
Joshua King, Chris Derksen, Peter Toose, Alexandre Langlois, C. F. Larsen, Juha Lemmetyinen, P. Marsh, Benoît Montpetit, Alexandre Roy, Nick Rutter, Matthew Sturm
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 215

Abstract Recent advancement in the understanding of snow-microwave interactions has helped to isolate the considerable potential for radar-based retrieval of snow water equivalent (SWE). There are however, few datasets available to address spatial uncertainties, such as the influence of snow microstructure, at scales relevant to space-borne application. In this study we introduce measurements from SnowSAR, an airborne, dual-frequency (9.6 and 17.2 GHz) synthetic aperture radar (SAR), to evaluate high resolution (10 m) backscatter within a snow-covered tundra basin. Coincident in situ surveys at two sites characterize a generally thin snowpack (50 cm) interspersed with deeper drift features. Structure of the snowpack is found to be predominantly wind slab (65%) with smaller proportions of depth hoar underlain (35%). Objective estimates of snow microstructure (exponential correlation length; lex), show the slab layers to be 2.8 times smaller than the basal depth hoar. In situ measurements are used to parametrize the Microwave Emission Model of Layered Snowpacks (MEMLS3&a) and compare against collocated SnowSAR backscatter. The evaluation shows a scaling factor (ϕ) between 1.37 and 1.08, when applied to input of lex, minimizes MEMLS root mean squared error to

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Validation of the SMAP freeze/thaw product using categorical triple collocation
Haobo Lyu, Kaighin A. McColl, Xinlu Li, Chris Derksen, Aaron Berg, T. A. Black, Eugénie Euskirchen, M. M. Loranty, Jouni Pulliainen, Kimmo Rautiainen, Tracy Rowlandson, Alexandre Roy, A. Royer, Alexandre Langlois, Jilmarie Stephens, Hui Lu, Dara Entekhabi
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 205

Abstract The landscape freeze/thaw (FT) state plays an important role in local, regional and global weather and climate, but is difficult to monitor. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission provides hemispheric estimates of landscape FT state at a spatial resolution of approximately 36 2  km 2 . Previous validation studies of SMAP and other satellite FT products have compared satellite retrievals with point estimates obtained from in-situ measurements of air and/or soil temperature. Differences between the two are attributed to errors in the satellite retrieval. However, significant differences can occur between satellite and in-situ estimates solely due to differences in scale between the measurements; these differences can be viewed as ‘representativeness errors’ in the in-situ product, caused by using a point estimate to represent a large-scale spatial average. Most previous validation studies of landscape FT state have neglected representativeness errors entirely, resulting in conservative estimates of satellite retrieval skill. In this study, we use a variant of triple collocation called ‘categorical triple collocation’ – a technique that uses model, satellite and in-situ estimates to obtain relative performance rankings of all three products, without neglecting representativeness errors – to validate the SMAP landscape FT product. Performance rankings are obtained for nine sites at northern latitudes. We also investigate differences between using air or soil temperatures to estimate FT state, and between using morning (6 AM) or evening (6 PM) estimates. Overall, at most sites, the SMAP product or in-situ FT measurement is ranked first, and the model FT product is ranked last (although rankings vary across sites). These results suggest SMAP is adding value to model simulations, providing higher-accuracy estimates of landscape FT states compared to models and, in some cases, even in-situ estimates, when representativeness errors are properly accounted for in the validation analysis.

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Dielectric characterization of vegetation at L band using an open-ended coaxial probe
Alex Mavrovic, Alexandre Roy, A. Royer, Bilal Filali, F.R. Boone, Christoforos Pappas, Oliver Sonnentag
Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems, Volume 7, Issue 3

Abstract. Decoupling the integrated microwave signal originating from soil and vegetation remains a challenge for all microwave remote sensing applications. To improve satellite and airborne microwave data products in forest environments, a precise and reliable estimation of the relative permittivity (ε=ε′-iε′′) of trees is required. We developed an open-ended coaxial probe suitable for in situ permittivity measurements of tree trunks at L-band frequencies (1–2 GHz). The probe is characterized by uncertainty ratios under 3.3 % for a broad range of relative permittivities (unitless), [2–40] for ε′ and [0.1–20] for ε′′. We quantified the complex number describing the permittivity of seven different tree species in both frozen and thawed states: black spruce, larch, red spruce, balsam fir, red pine, aspen and black cherry. Permittivity variability is substantial and can range up to 300 % for certain species. Our results show that the permittivity of wood is linked to the freeze–thaw state of vegetation and that even short winter thaw events can lead to an increase in vegetation permittivity. The open-ended coaxial probe proved to be precise enough to capture the diurnal cycle of water storage inside the trunk for the length of the growing season.

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Boreal tree hydrodynamics: asynchronous, diverging, yet complementary
Christoforos Pappas, Ashley M. Matheny, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Alan G. Barr, T. Andrew Black, Gil Bohrer, Matteo Detto, Jason Maillet, Alexandre Roy, Oliver Sonnentag, Jilmarie Stephens
Tree Physiology, Volume 38, Issue 7

Water stress has been identified as a key mechanism of the contemporary increase in tree mortality rates in northwestern North America. However, a detailed analysis of boreal tree hydrodynamics and their interspecific differences is still lacking. Here we examine the hydraulic behaviour of co-occurring larch (Larix laricina) and black spruce (Picea mariana), two characteristic boreal tree species, near the southern limit of the boreal ecozone in central Canada. Sap flux density (Js), concurrently recorded stem radius fluctuations and meteorological conditions are used to quantify tree hydraulic functioning and to scrutinize tree water-use strategies. Our analysis revealed asynchrony in the diel hydrodynamics of the two species with the initial rise in Js occurring 2 h earlier in larch than in black spruce. Interspecific differences in larch and black spruce crown architecture explained the observed asynchrony in their hydraulic functioning. Furthermore, the two species exhibited diverging stomatal regulation strategies with larch and black spruce employing relatively isohydric and anisohydric behaviour, respectively. Such asynchronous and diverging tree-level hydrodynamics provide new insights into the ecosystem-level complementarity in tree form and function, with implications for understanding boreal forests' water and carbon dynamics and their resilience to environmental stress.

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L-band radiometry freeze/ thaw validation using air temperature and ground measurements
Matthew A. Williamson, Tracy Rowlandson, Aaron Berg, Alexandre Roy, Peter Toose, Chris Derksen, L. Arnold, Erica Tetlock
Remote Sensing Letters, Volume 9, Issue 4

Assessment of remote sensing derived freeze/thaw products from L-band radiometry requires ground validation. There is growing interest in utilizing soil moisture networks to meet this validation re...