Biospheric Sciences - 618


Biospheric Sciences is a part of the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Biospheric Sciences studies terrestrial ecosystems and their interactions with the atmosphere using multiscale remote sensing, modeling, and advanced analytical techniques.

Biospheric Sciences Laboratory studies terrestrial ecosystems and their interactions with the atmosphere using multiscale remote sensing, modeling, and advanced analytical techniques. Specifically:

  1. develops and utilizes satellite remote sensing, aircraft and ground instruments to measure variables that describe the temporal and spatial dynamics of natural ecosystems as well as human impacts on these systems, especially the vegetation condition (e.g., land cover, height, biomass, photosynthetic capacity), soils (e.g., soil condition and type), and links to atmospheric constituents (e.g., aerosols, CO2;
  2. develops mathematical models that use space-borne, airborne and ground observations to predict land surface conditions and processes related to rates of vegetation, soil, and atmosphere exchanges (e.g., radiation, heat, water, greenhouse gases, net primary productivity);
  3. acquires, produces, and distributes comprehensive, integrated land data sets incorporating ground, airborne, and/or satellite observations to facilitate model development and validation;
  4. ensures the scientific integrity of new Earth remote sensing systems to improve space-based Earth observation; and
  5. performs research which leads to the definition and development of new technologies, sensors, and missions. Through the above activities, assesses and predicts environmental changes due to natural and anthropogenic processes at local to global scales.

Weekly Highlights


On December 22nd, 2015, The Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) hosted the "2015 Tree Summit: Greening the District through Collaboration" at the American university. Dr Lahouari Bounoua and Dr Ping Zhang were invited to give a keynote presentation on their recently published work “Impact of Urbanization on US Surface Climate". The audience included Muriel Bowser, DC’s mayor, as well as the directors of the National Park Service, DOEE and the DDOT. Other scientists and the district’s decision makers were also present. The keynote introduced the quantitative and qualitative role of urban vegetation in surface climate mitigation. Dr. Zhang explained that not only the amount of vegetation but also the species of the vegetation impact surface climates in cities.


Papers Published or In Press: 

Morton DC (618), Rubio J (Toulouse/618), Cook BD (618), Gastellu-Etchegorry J.-P. (Toulouse), Longo M (Embrapa), Choi H (SSAI/618), Hunter MO (UNH), Keller M (USFS). Amazon forest structure generates diurnal and seasonal variability in light utilization. Biogeosciences Discussion, 12, 19043-19072, doi:10.5194/bgd-12-19043-2015, 2015.


 This study illustrates the importance of realistic, 3-D representations of the forest canopy for accurate simulations of light availability in tropical forests. DART model re- sults have important implications for both modeling and remote sensing of tropical forest ecosystems, including how the vertical and horizontal distributions of light saturation effects influence remote sensing measurements and model estimates of forest productivity.  Radiative transfer models provide an important link between top-down estimates from remote sensing platforms and bottom-up estimates of forest structure and carbon fluxes from field and tower-based instruments. 

Wolf J (JGCRI), West TO (JGCRI), Le Page Y (JGCRI), Kyle GP (JGCRI), Zhang X (JGCRI), 
Collatz GJ (618), Imhoff ML (JGCRI).  Biogenic carbon fluxes from global agricultural production and consumption. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, in press.


Quantification of biogenic carbon fluxes from agricultural lands is needed to generate comprehensive bottom-up estimates of net carbon exchange for global and regional carbon monitoring. We estimated global agricultural carbon fluxes associated with annual crop net primary production (NPP), harvested biomass, and consumption of biomass by humans and livestock. Global crop NPP in 2011 was estimated at 5.25 ± 0.46 Pg C yr-1, of which 2.05 ± 0.05 Pg C yr-1 was harvested and 0.54 Pg C yr-1 was collected from crop residues for livestock fodder.  The spatial distribution of these fluxes may be used for global carbon monitoring, estimation of regional uncertainty, and for use as input to Earth system models.

Neigh, C.S.R. (618), Masek, J.G. (618), Bourget, P. (USM), Rishmawi, K. (UMD), Zhao, F. (UMD), Huang, C. (UMD), Cook, B. (618), & Nelson, R.F. *618). Regional rates of US forest growth measured from annual Landsat disturbance history and IKONOS stereo imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment, 2014 ForestSAT special issue,in press.  doi:10.1016/j.rse.2015.09.007 <


Forests of the Contiguous United States (CONUS) have been found to be a large contributor to the global atmospheric carbon sink. We combine annual Landsat forest disturbance history from 1985 to 2011 with single date IKONOS stereo imagery to estimate the change in young forest canopy height and above ground live dry biomass accumulation for selected sites in the CONUS. For 20 study sites distributed across five regions of the CONUS, 19 showed statistically significant recovery trends (p < 0.001) with canopy growth from 0.26 m yr- 1 to 0.73 m yr- 1. Growth estimates found with this approach are consistent with site index curves and total biomass estimates fall within the range of field estimates. 


David Lagomasino (618/USRA) gave a talk and presented a poster at the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2015 Meeting in Portland, Oregon (Nov 9-12). The presentation, “Moving from Blue to REDD: MRV and carbon accounting in mangroves [Lagomasino, D (618/USRA), Fatoyinbo, T (618) and Lee, S.K (618/ORAU)” highlighting the use of 3D remote sensing for measure canopy height and carbon in mangrove forests. A second poster titled “Variability of water levels in the Florida Coastal Everglades using two time-series analyses [Anderson, G (USGS)., Lagomasino, D (618/USRA)., Price, R (FIU)., Wdowinski, S (UMiami)., Smith, T (USGS)” examined the interaction of long-term water levels in the freshwater and saltwater of Everglades National Park and showed drastic changes in freshwater levels over the past 16 years.

External Interactions:

Assaf Anyamba (618/USRA) attended the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Meeting organized by EcoHealth Alliance on November 4th, 2010 in Washington DC. GHSA presentation was given by Dr. Elizabeth E. Cameron, Director, Countering Biological Threats, National Security Council. He also participated in the Pandemic Prediction and Forecasting S&T Working Group Teleconference on November 10, 2015 to deliberate on various USG options to address disease outbreak threats during this El Niño period.  Anyamba, Kenneth Linthicum (USDA) and Jean-Paul Chretien (DoD-AFHSC) contributed an El Niño and Rift Valley fever risk, East Africa: Prediction, Preparedness, Prevention brief for consideration. The Pandemic Prediction and Forecasting S&T Working Group is organized under the Subcommittee on Biological Defense Research and Development (BDRD) Committee on Homeland and National Security, National Science and Technology Council.

Jeff Masek (618) took part in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” chat on the global carbon cycle on Thursday November 12, as part of the Earth Right Now focus on carbon and climate.  Other participants included David Schimel (JPL) and Anastasia Romanou (Columbia University).  


This week 8 of our civil servants are representing the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA from December 14-18, 2015

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Brown Bag Seminars

Brown Bag Seminars are initiated as an informal forum to present your new work or updates to your 618 colleagues.

Seminars are held on Tuesdays between 12:30 and 1:30 PM. 

Next Seminar: Dough Morton, February 11th, 2016

Please check the calendar for a list of past and upcoming seminars. 

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Contact information for scientists can be found in the personnel list.