Abstract

Arctic shrubs reduce surface albedo in winter when branches protrude above the snow. To calculate the albedo of those mixed surfaces, the branch area index (BAI) of Arctic shrubs needs to be known. Moreover, an exposed-vegetation function is required to determine the BAI for protruding branches only. This study used a structural analysis of 30 Betula glandulosa shrubs, sampled near Umiujaq, Northern Quebec, to i) establish an allometric relationship between shrub height and BAI and ii) determine a specific exposed-vegetation function for Arctic shrubs. The spectral albedo (400–1080 nm) of mixed surfaces was then simulated with the equations derived from this study and validated with in-situ measured spectra. Shrubs were sampled from two sites, one along the coast, the other in a nearby valley. The shrub height-BAI relationship varied between both sites. BAI values of shrubs growing in the wind-sheltered valley were 30% to 50 % lower. The exposed-vegetation function obtained here differed from the linear functions found in the literature. The linear functions strongly overestimated the BAI of exposed branches. Albedo was well simulated with an accuracy of 3% when using an allometric relationship adapted to the environmental conditions of our study site. However, simulated albedo values were consistently higher than field measurements, probably because radiation absorbed by impurities and buried branches was neglected in the model. We conclude that specific exposed-vegetation and allometric equations need to be implemented in models to accurately simulate the albedo of mixed snow-shrub surfaces.

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