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Out of this world: Photosynthesis measured from space

Because of their ability to make valuable products from organic compounds like CO2, plants are known as "primary producers." Gross primary production (GPP), which quantifies the rate of CO2 fixation in plants through photosynthesis, is a key metric to track the health and performance of any plant-based ecosystem.

A research team with the U.S. Department of Energy's Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed a product to accurately measure GPP: the SatelLite Only Photosynthesis Estimation Gross Primary Production (SLOPE GPP) product at a daily time step and field-scale spatial resolution.

"Quantifying the rate at which plants in a given area process CO2 is critical to a global understanding of carbon cycling, terrestrial land management, and water and soil health -- especially given the erratic conditions of a warming planet," said Kaiyu Guan, project leader and NCSA Blue Waters Professor.

"Measuring photosynthesis is especially pertinent to agricultural ecosystems, where plant productivity and biomass levels are directly tied to crop yield and therefore food security. Our research directly applies to not only ecosystem service, but also societal well-being," said Chongya Jiang, a research scientist on the project.

Read the complete research at

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment. "Out of this world: Photosynthesis measured from space: Research team develops model to accurately calculate gross primary productivity (GPP) in bioenergy crops using satellite data.." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2021. 

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University of Illinois 


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