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Assessing the seasonal dynamics of the Brazilian Cerrado vegetation through the use of spectral vegetation indices

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In this study, the response of vegetation indices (VIs) to the seasonal patterns and spatial distribution of the major vegetation types encountered in the Brazilian Cerrado was investigated. The Cerrado represents the second largest biome in South America and is the most severely threatened biome as a result of rapid land conversions. Our goal was to assess the capability of VIs to effectively monitor the Cerrado and to discriminate among the major types of Cerrado vegetation. A full hydrologic year (1995) of composited AVHRR, local area coverage (LAC) data was converted to Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (SAVI) values. Temporal extracts were then made over the major Cerrado vegetation communities. Both the NDVI and SAVI temporal profiles corresponded well to the phenological patterns of the natural and converted vegetation formations and depicted three major categories encompassing the savanna formations and pasture sites, the forested areas, and the agricultural crops. Secondary differences in the NDVI and SAVI temporal responses were found to be related to their unique interactions with sun-sensor viewing geometries. An assessment of the functional behaviour of the VIs confirmed SAVI responds primarily to NIR variations, while the NDVI showed a strong dependence on the red reflectance. Based on these results, we expect operational use of the MODIS Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) to provide improved discrimination and monitoring capability of the significant Cerrado vegetation types.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Federal University of Goiás, Social and Environmental Studies Institute Campus Samambaia - Cx. Postal 131 74001-970 Goiânia-GO Brazil, Email: 2: Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science, Terrestrial Biophysics and Remote Sensing Lab University of Arizona 429 Shantz Bldg., #38 Tucson AZ 85721 USA, Email:

Publication date: 2004-05-01

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