Remote sensing data provide essential input for today's climate and ecosystem models. It is generally agreed that many model processes are not accurately depicted by current remotely sensed indices of vegetation and that new observational capabilities are needed at different spatial and spectral scales to reduce uncertainty. Recent advances in materials and optics have allowed the development of smaller, more stable, accurately calibrated imaging spectrometers that can quantify biophysical properties on the basis of the spectral absorbing and scattering characteristics of the land surface. Airborne and spaceborne imaging spectrometers, which measure large numbers (hundreds) of narrow spectral bands, are becoming more widely available from government and commercial sources; thus, it is increasingly feasible to use data from imaging spectroscopy for environmental research. In contrast to multispectral sensors, imaging spectroscopy produces quantitative estimates of biophysical absorptions, which can be used to improve scientific understanding of ecosystem functioning and properties. We present the recent advances in imaging spectroscopy and new capabilities for using it to quantify a range of ecological variables.
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