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Hyperspectral indices for detecting changes in canopy reflectance as a result of underground natural gas leakage

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Natural gas leakage from underground pipelines is known to affect vegetation adversely, probably by displacement of the soil oxygen needed for respiration. This causes changes in plant and canopy reflectance, which may serve as indicators of gas leakage. In this study, a covariance analysis was performed between reflectance indices of maize (Zea mays) and wheat (Triticum aestivum) canopies and oxygen concentrations in a simulated natural gas leak. Twenty-nine days after oxygen shortage occurred, the reflectance indices had the highest correlation with oxygen concentrations in the soil, for both species. The effect was consistent within species but the absolute values varied between the species. Normalization by adding a constant value to the control index of one species resulted in significant linear regression models for several indices. The indices with the highest regression coefficients were used to predict the oxygen concentration in the soil. This showed that the gas leakage caused reflectance changes up to 0.5 m from the source. As it could not be proven that oxygen shortage was the cause of the reflectance changes, further work is needed to study the side-effects of gas leakage, such as bacterial oxygen depletion, on plant growth and reflectance.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: International Institute for Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Enschede, the Netherlands 2: Division of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, UK 3: School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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