Earth observations collected by remote sensors provide unique information to our ever-growing knowledge of the terrestrial biosphere. Yet, retrieving information from remote sensing data requires sophisticated processing and demands a better understanding of the underlying physics. This paper reviews research efforts that lead to the developments of the stochastic radiative transfer equation (RTE) and the spectral invariants theory. The former simplifies the characteristics of canopy structures with a pair-correlation function so that the 3D information can be succinctly packed into a 1D equation. The latter indicates that the interactions between photons and canopy elements converge to certain invariant patterns quantifiable by a few wavelength independent parameters, which satisfy the law of energy conservation. By revealing the connections between plant structural characteristics and photon recollision probability, these developments significantly advance our understanding of the transportation of radiation within vegetation canopies. They enable a novel physically-based algorithm to simulate the “hot-spot” phenomenon of canopy bidirectional reflectance while conserving energy, a challenge known to the classic radiative transfer models. Therefore, these theoretical developments have a far-reaching influence in optical remote sensing of the biosphere.
Wang, Weile; Nemani, Ramakrishna; Hashimoto, Hirofumi; Ganguly, Sangram; Huang, Dong; Knyazikhin, Yuri; Myneni, Ranga; and Bala, Govindasamy, "An Interplay between Photons, Canopy Structure, and Recollision Probability: A Review of the Spectral Invariants Theory of 3D Canopy Radiative Transfer Processes" (2018). School of Natural Sciences Faculty Publications and Presentations. 52.