Measuring the leaf area of plants spans many scientific disciplines. Monitoring the distribution and changes of leaf area is important for assessing growth and vigour of vegetation on the planet. It is fundamentally important as a parameter in land-surface processes and climate models. This variable represents the amount of leaf material in ecosystems and controls the links between biosphere and atmosphere through various processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, transpiration and rain interception. A measurement that is seemingly so simple and fundamental is really the backbone that provides the framework for further research in areas like ecology, agronomy, entomology, carbon cycle research and plant pathology. These and many other disciplines rely on the measurement of leaf area in much of their work.
For example, an ecologist may want to quantify total biomass in the environment he is working in and break that biomass to specific leaf area of all the species he/she is studying. Over time they would be interested in knowing how that total biomass changes from species to species.
Measuring leaf area with the LI-3000C
An agronomist also interested in specific crop varieties might want to compare harvestable biomass using leaf area as the primary tool for looking at above ground biomass. Measuring leaf area changes is one way for entomologists to quantify insect damage on plants. They may be looking at different agronomic varieties of a specific crop to see if an insect pest prefers one over the other. In this case leaf area measurements become an important part of this study.
Carbon Cycle modelers have an interest in total biomass of a system as well to better understand carbon uptake and storage in different environments.
A plant pathologist comparing the effect of different diseases on plant types may use leaf area as an indicator of treatment effectiveness.
Knowing the leaf area is essential for studies involving photosynthesis as well. The accuracy of a leaf-level photosynthesis measurement is dependent on the accuracy of the leaf area measurement. Leaf-level photosynthesis measurements are reported as the number of micromoles of carbon dioxide assimilated per unit time and leaf area. Therefore, errors in your leaf area measurement directly correspond to errors in your photosynthesis measurement.
LI-COR Instruments used to study Leaf Area:
The LI-3100C can be
used to measure with large numbers of harvested leaves in a laboratory setting.
The LI-3000C can be used to measure leaf area using a non-destructive method in the field.
The LI-3000C can also be used to study leaf area in the laboratory: it can measure harvested leaves when used with the LI-3050C Transparent Belt Conveyor Accessory.
Related: LI-COR's solution for Leaf Area Index:
The LAI-2200C can be used to measure leaf area index in grasslands, forests, row crops, isolated trees and hedges.