Employing lidar to detail vegetation canopy architecture for prediction of aeolian transport

Joel B. Sankey, Darin J. Law, David D. Breshears, Seth M. Munson, Robert H. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The diverse and fundamental effects that aeolian processes have on the biosphere and geosphere are commonly generated by horizontal sediment transport at the land surface. However, predicting horizontal sediment transport depends on vegetation architecture, which is difficult to quantify in a rapid but accurate manner. We demonstrate an approach to measure vegetation canopy architecture at high resolution using lidar along a gradient of dryland sites ranging from 2% to 73% woody plant canopy cover. Lidar-derived canopy height, distance (gaps) between vegetation elements (e.g., trunks, limbs, leaves), and the distribution of gaps scaled by vegetation height were correlated with canopy cover and highlight potentially improved horizontal dust flux estimation than with cover alone. Employing lidar to estimate detailed vegetation canopy architecture offers promise for improved predictions of horizontal sediment transport across heterogeneous plant assemblages. Key Points Aeolian processes in the bio and geosphere are driven by horizontal dust fluxPredicting dust flux depends on detailed vegetation architecture measurementsAccurate and rapid lidar measurements of vegetation enable dust flux estimation

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1724-1728
Number of pages5
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 16 2013


  • aeolian
  • dust
  • flux
  • lidar
  • mesquite
  • shrub

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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