Information about the availability of solar irradiance for crops is of high importance for improving management practices of agricultural ecosystems such as agroforestry systems (AFS). Hence, the development of a high-resolution model that allows for the quantification of tree shading on a diurnal and annual time scale is highly demanded to generate realistic estimations of the shading dynamics in a given AFS. We describe an approach using 3D data derived from a terrestrial laser scanner and the steps undertaken to develop a vector-based model that quantifies and visualizes the shadow cast by single trees at daily, monthly, seasonal or annual levels with the input of cylinder-based tree models. It is able to compute the shadow of given tree models in time intervals of 10 min. To simulate seasonal growth and shedding of leaves, ellipsoids as replacement for leaves can be added to the tips of the tree model’s branches. The shadow model is flexible in its input of location (latitude, longitude), tree architecture and temporal resolution. Due to the possibility to feed this model with factual climate data such as cloud covers, it represents the first 3D tree model that enables the user to retrospectively analyze the shadow regime below a given tree, and to quantify shadow-related developments in AFS.
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