Through eagle eyes—the potential of satellite-derived LAI time series to estimate masting events and tree-ring width of European beech

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Masting is a well-known phenomenon in forest science in which trees recurrently produce exceptional high seed amounts throughout their lifespan. Occurring simultaneously across wide regions, masting may impact carbon sequestration and carbon cycling of forest ecosystems. To identify masting-induced changes in tree canopies, remote sensing methods may offer a suitable tool, though so far only few studies have used RS methods to investigate the relationship between masting and tree-ring width (TRW). Therefore, we employed a regional network of 19 European beech sites along a precipitation gradient in north-eastern Germany, providing time series of TRW (1961–2017) and categorical masting data (1992–2020). Combined with leaf area index (LAI) from the medium-resolution satellite sensors SPOT-VGT/PROBA-V and MODIS, we assessed the relationship between all three parameters by correlation analysis. Furthermore, we identified common climatic drivers and spatial masting patterns along gradients of water availability. We found negative relationships for both TRW and LAI with masting and a positive correlation for TRW with LAI for SPOT-VGT/PROBA-V data. Contrary, MODIS LAI provided no significant relationships. Water availability did not impact masting occurrence or intensity. The climate correlations showed that masting and TRW are commonly driven by summer climate in June and July, while we found no correlations between climate and LAI. We conclude that medium-resolved SPOT-VGT/PROBA-V LAI is suitable to observe masting but not to estimate TRW. Nonetheless, the results should be thoroughly interpreted in the context of uncertainties of RS measurements and complex interactions of different environmental drivers.


Original languageEnglish
Article number74
Number of pages14
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

External IDs

WOS 000992411200001
ORCID /0000-0002-2942-9180/work/142233776
ORCID /0000-0003-0363-9697/work/142252108
ORCID /0000-0002-5218-6682/work/145699226
ORCID /0000-0002-5098-4090/work/158305054


Sustainable Development Goals

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Climate sensitivity, Fructification, Leaf area index, Remote sensing, Tree growth

Library keywords