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Application of Hyperspectral Vegetation Indices to Detect Variations in High Leaf Area Index Temperate Shrub Thicket Canopies

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Journal article

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Accurate measurement of leaf area index LAI, an important characteristic of plant canopies directly linked to primary production, is essential for monitoring changes in ecosystem C stocks and other ecosystem level fluxes. Direct measurement of LAI is labor intensive, impractical at large scales and does not capture seasonal or annual variations in canopy biomass. The need to monitor canopy related fluxes across landscapes makes remote sensing an attractive technique for estimating LAI. Many vegetation indices, such as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index NDVI, tend to saturate at LAI levels N4 although tropical and temperate forested ecosystems often exceed that threshold. Using two monospecific shrub thickets as model systems, we evaluated the potential of a variety of algorithms specifically developed to improve accuracy of LAI estimates in canopies where LAI exceeds saturation levels for other indices. We also tested the potential of indices developed to detect variations in canopy chlorophyll to estimate LAI because of the direct relationship between total canopy chlorophyll content and LAI. Indices were evaluated based on data from direct litterfall and indirect measurements LAI-2000 of LAI. Relationships between results of direct and indirect ground-sampling techniques were also evaluated. For these two canopies, the indices that showed the highest potential to accurately differentiate LAI values N4 were derivative indices based on red-edge spectral reflectance. Algorithms intended to improve accuracy at high LAI values in agricultural systems were insensitive when LAI exceeded 4 and offered little or no improvement over NDVI. Furthermore, indirect ground-sampling techniques often used to evaluate the potential of vegetation indices also saturate when LAI exceeds 4.

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  • Biology
  • Ecology

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