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Estimating tree-cover change in Australia: challenges of using the MODIS vegetation index product

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Time series of the vegetation index product MOD13Q1 from the Moderate Resolution Imagery Spectroradiometer (MODIS) were assessed for estimating tree foliage projective cover (FPC) and cover change from 2000 to 2006. The MOD13Q1 product consists of the enhanced vegetation index (EVI) and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). There were four challenges in using the MOD13Q1 product to derive tree FPC: assessing the impact of the sensor's varying view geometry on the vegetation index values; decoupling tree and grass cover contributions to the vegetation index signal; devising a method to relate the temporally composited vegetation index pixels to Lidar estimates of tree FPC for calibration; and estimating the accuracy of the FPC and FPC change measurements using independently derived Lidar, Landsat and MODIS cover estimates. The results show that, for complex canopies, the varying view geometry influenced the vegetation indices. The EVI was more sensitive to the view angle than the NDVI, indicating that it is sensitive to vegetation structure. An existing time series method successfully extracted the evergreen vegetation index signal while simultaneously minimizing the impact of varying view geometry. The vegetation indices were better suited to monitoring tree cover change than deriving accurate single-date estimates of cover at regional to continental scales. The EVI was more suited to monitoring change in high-biomass regions (cover >50%) where the NDVI begins to saturate.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: The Centre for Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Science, School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia 2: Remote Sensing Centre, Natural Resource Sciences, Department of Natural Resources and Water, QLD 4068, Australia 3: School of Physical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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