Ecosystem-scale measurements of biomass water using cosmic ray neutrons

Trenton E. Franz, Marek Zreda, Rafael Rosolem, Brian K. Hornbuckle, Samantha L. Irvin, Henry Adams, Thomas E. Kolb, Chris Zweck, W. James Shuttleworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Accurate estimates of biomass are imperative for understanding the global carbon cycle. However, measurements of biomass and water in the biomass are difficult to obtain at a scale consistent with measurements of mass and energy transfer, ∼1 km, leading to substantial uncertainty in dynamic global vegetation models. Here we use a novel cosmic ray neutron method to estimate a stoichiometric predictor of ecosystem-scale biomass and biomass water equivalent over tens of hectares. We present two experimental studies, one in a ponderosa pine forest and the other in a maize field, where neutron-derived estimates of biomass water equivalent are compared and found consistent with direct observations. Given the new hectometer scale of nondestructive observation and potential for continuous measurements, we anticipate this technique to be useful to many scientific disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3929-3933
Number of pages5
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 16 2013


  • biomass
  • cosmic ray neutrons
  • large scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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