Macro to micro: Microwave remote sensing of plant water content for physiology and ecology

Alexandra G. Konings*, Krishna Rao, Susan C. Steele-Dunne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Although primarily valued for their suitability for oceanographic applications and soil moisture estimation, microwave remote sensing observations are also sensitive to plant water content (M w). Since M w depends on both plant water status and biomass, these observations have the potential to be useful for a range of plant drought response studies. In this paper, we introduce the principles behind microwave remote sensing observations to illustrate how they are sensitive to plant water content and discuss the relationship between landscape-scale M w and common stand-scale metrics, including plant-scale relative water content, live fuel moisture content and leaf water potential. Lastly, we discuss how various sensor types can be leveraged for specific applications depending on the spatio-temporal resolution needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1166-1172
Number of pages7
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • leaf water potential
  • microwave remote sensing
  • plant water content
  • radar
  • radiometry
  • relative water content
  • vegetation optical depth


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