THE CEOS DATABASE : Missions, Instruments and Measurements
DomainTerrestrialDescriptionThe Leaf Area Index (LAI) of a plant canopy or ecosystem, defined as one half the total green leaf area per unit horizontal ground surface area, measures the area of leaf material present in the specified environment. On sloping surfaces, the leaf area should be projected to the underlying ground along the normal to the slope. This dimensionless variable (sometimes expressed in terms of square metres of leaf material per square metre of ground) varies between 0 and values of the order of 10 or so, depending on local conditions. It partly controls important mass and energy exchange processes, such as radiation and rain interception, as well as photosynthesis and respiration, which couple vegetation to the climate system. Hence, LAI appears as a key variable in many models describing vegetation-atmosphere interactions, particularly with respect to the carbon and water cycles. [GCOS-195 6.3.12]
Full NameLeaf area index (LAI)
Satellite Signficant ContributionYes
GCOS Actions
DescriptionWhoTime FramePerformance IndicatorCost Implications
Development of a subset of current LTER and FLUXNET sites into a global terrestrial reference network for monitoring sites with sustained funding perspective, and collocated measurements of meteorological ECVs; seek linkage with Actions T4 and T29 as appropriate.Parties’ national services and research agencies, FLUXNET organizations, NEON, and ICOS, in association with CEOS WGCV, CGMS-GSICS, and GTOS (TCO and TOPC).Implementation started by 2011, completed by 2014.Plan for the development and application of standardised protocols for the30-100M US$ (40% in non-Annex-I Parties).
Establish a calibration/validation network of in situ reference sites for FAPAR and LAI and conduct systematic, comprehensive evaluation campaigns to understand and resolve differences between the products and increase their accuracy.Parties’ national and regional research centres, in cooperation with space agencies coordinated by CEOS WGCV, GCOS and GTOS.Network operational by 2012.Data available to analysis centres.1-10M US$ (40% in non-Annex-I Parties).
Evaluate the various LAI satellite products and benchmark them against in situ measurements to arrive at an agreed operational product.Parties’ national and regional research centres, in cooperation with space agencies and CEOS WGCV, GCOS/TOPC, and GTOS.Benchmark by 2012.Agreement on operational product.1-10M US$ (10% in non-Annex-I Parties).
Operationalize the generation of FAPAR and LAI products as gridded global products at spatial resolution of 2 km or better over time periods as long as possible.Space agencies, coordinated through CEOS WGCV, with advice from GCOS and GTOS.2012One or more countries or operational data providers accept the charge of generating, maintaining, and distributing global FAPAR products.10-30M US$ (10% in non-Annex-I Parties).
*GCOS-195 Status Categories: Category A: Action completed, perhaps exceeding reasonable expectations. Very good progress on ongoing tasks. Category B: Action largely completed according to expectation. Good progress on ongoing tasks. Category C: Moderate progress overall, although progress may be good for some part of the action. Category D: Limited progress overall, although progress may be moderate or good for some part of the action. Category E: Very little or no progress, or deterioration rather than progress.
GCOS Products
Related Measurements/
from CEOS DB
T.8Maps of Leaf Area IndexLAI
Leaf Area Index (LAI)
CEOS Response[T29 (T.7)]

2015 Update: The Land Product Validation Subgroup of the CEOS WGCV (LPV) has taken on a coordination role to establish fiducial reference data in collaboration with long-term in-situ networks for fAPAR and LAI. The LPV focus area for fAPAR and LAI are in contact with in-situ networks (e.g., NEON, ICOS) to coordinate field sampling protocols. A fAPAR workshop was held in 2014 to discuss details of a fAPAR intercomparison and validation protocol and field instrument set-up and sampling. In 2015, a few sites were instrumented and with calibrated PAR sensors that will allow for the generation of high-quality fAPAR reference data. However, the number of validation sites remains limited (see

Work on the generation of LAI in-situ reference data has been ongoing. A compiled reference data set has been extended recently for crop- and grassland sites in the framework of the EU Framework Programme 7 project ImagineS ( . It is planned to make these data available through the PLIVE platform.

[T30 (T.7)]

2015 Update: Completion or significant progress of all planned key activities related to this action has been achieved. The Land Product Validation subgroup of the CEOS Working Group on Calibration and Validation has coordinated the implementation pof an on-line validation system, supported by ESA (Weiss et al., 2014). The subgroup is coordinating with several long-term in-situ networks to improve the quantity and quality of validation data, for example by reviewing field sampling protocols (e.g., ICOS, NEON). Most importantly, the LPV subgroup compiled and distributed a community-reviewed best practices document for LAI intercomparison and validation. This document is referenced with a DOI (doi:10.5067/doc/ceoswgcv/lpv/lai.002). For more information see

[T31 (T.7, T.8)]

2015 Update: Operational product generation has commenced through NOAA and EUMETSAT. For example, NOAA’s Climate Data Records Program has transitioned the production of LAI and fAPAR to operations ( The records are global on a 0.05 by 0.05 degree grid and are produced daily from 1981-present. These records are also routinely updated and full documentation is available. However, to date community agreed specifications of uncertainty, reconciliation of algorithms and ancillary data have not been achieved for LAI and all contributing archives have not been therefore reprocessed to date.

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