A multi-scale analysis of dynamic optical signals in a Southern California chaparral ecosystem: A comparison of field, AVIRIS and MODIS data

Yufu Cheng, John A. Gamon, David A. Fuentes, Zhiyan Mao, Daniel A. Sims, Hong lie Qiu, Helen Claudio, Alfredo Huete, Abdullah F. Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Using field data, Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) imagery, and Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data, a multi-scale analysis of ecosystem optical properties was performed for Sky Oaks, a Southern California chaparral ecosystem in the spectral network (SpecNet) and FLUXNET networks. The study covered a 4-year period (2000-2004), which included a severe drought in 2002 and a subsequent wildfire in July 2003, leading to extreme perturbation in ecosystem productivity and optical properties. Two vegetation greenness indices (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI)), and a measure of the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation absorbed by vegetation (fPAR), were compared across sampling platforms, which ranged in pixel size from 1 m (tram system in the field) to 1000 m (MODIS satellite sensor). The three MODIS products closely followed the same seasonal trends as the tram and AVIRIS data, but tended to be higher than the tram and AVIRIS values, particularly for fPAR and NDVI. Following a wildfire that removed all green vegetation, the overestimation in MODIS fPAR values was particularly clear. The MODIS fPAR algorithm (version 4 vs. v.4.1) had a significant effect on the degree of overestimation, with v. 4.1 improving the agreement with the other sensors (AVIRIS and tram) for vegetated conditions, but not for low, post-fire values. The differences between MODIS products and the products from the other platform sensors could not be entirely attributed to differences in sensor spectral responses or sampling scale. These results are consistent with several other recently published studies that indicate that MODIS overestimates fPAR and thus net primary production (NPP) for many terrestrial ecosystems, and demonstrates the need for proper validation of MODIS terrestrial biospheric products by direct comparison against optical signals at other spatial scales, as is now possible at several SpecNet sites. The study also demonstrates the utility of in-situ field sampling (e.g. tram systems) and hyperspectral aircraft imagery for proper interpretation of satellite data taken at coarse spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-378
Number of pages10
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 15 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Chaparral
  • Disturbance (wildfire, drought)
  • EVI
  • Field measurement
  • fPAR
  • NDVI
  • Scale
  • Validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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