Conversion of canopy intercepted radiation to photosynthate: Review of modelling approaches for regional scales

Belinda Medlyn*, Damian Barrett, Joe Landsberg, Peter Sands, Robert Clement

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


A fundamental component of most models of terrestrial carbon balance is an estimate of plant canopy photosynthetic uptake driven by radiation interception by the canopy. In this article, we review approaches used to model the conversion of radiation into photosynthate. As this process is well understood at the leaf-scale, the modelling problem is essentially one of up-scaling, to canopy, regional or global scale. Our review therefore focuses on issues of scaling, including model identification, parameterisation and validation at large scales. Four different approaches are commonly taken to modelling photosynthate production at large scales: the maximum productivity, resource-use efficiency, big-leaf, and sun-shade models. Models representing each of these approaches are discussed and model predictions compared with estimates of gross primary productivity derived from eddy covariance data measured above a Sitka spruce forest. The sun-shade model was found to perform best at all time scales considered. However, other models had significant advantages including simplicity of implementation and the ability to combine the model with remotely-sensed information on vegetation radiation interception. We conclude that all four approaches can be successfully used to model photosynthetic uptake and that the best approach in a given situation will depend on model objectives and data availability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-169
Number of pages17
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

A corrigendum for this article exists in Functional Plant Biology, vol. 30, issue 7, p. 829. DOI: 10.1071/FP02088_CO


  • Canopy photosynthesis
  • Model comparison
  • Modelling
  • Radiation
  • Scaling


Dive into the research topics of 'Conversion of canopy intercepted radiation to photosynthate: Review of modelling approaches for regional scales'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this