Spatial scale variations in vegetation indices and above-ground biomass estimates: implications for MERIS

F. van der Meer, W. Bakker, K. Scholte, A.K. Skidmore, S. de Jong, J. Clevers, E. Addink, G. Epema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) is one of the sensors carried by Envisat. MERIS is a fully programmable imaging spectrometer, however a standard 15-channel band set will be transmitted for each 300 m pixel (over land while over the ocean the pixels will be aggregated to 1200 m spatial resolution) covering visible and near-infrared wavelengths. Since MERIS is a multidisciplinary sensor providing data that can be input into ecosystem models at various scales, we studied MERIS's performance relative to the scale of observation using simulated datasets degraded to various spatial resolutions in the range of 6-300 m. Algorithms to simulate MERIS data using airborne imaging spectrometer datasets were presented, including a case study from DAIS (i.e. Digital Airborne Imaging Spectrometer) 79-channel imaging spectrometer data acquired on 8 July 1997 over the Le Peyne test site in southern France. For selected target endmembers garrigue, maquis, mixed oak forest, pine forest and bare agricultural field, regions-of-interest (ROI) were defined in the DAIS scene. For each of the endmembers, the vegetation index values in the corresponding ROI is calculated for the MERIS data at the spatial resolutions ranging from 6 to 300 m. We applied the NDVI, PVI, WDVI, SAVI, MSAVI, MSAVI2 and GEMI vegetation indices. Above-ground biomass (AGB) was estimated in the field and derived from the DAIS image and the MERIS datasets (6-300 m spatial resolution). The vegetation indices are shown to be constant with the spatial scale of observation. The strongest correlation between the MERIS and DAIS NDVI is obtained when using a linear model with an offset of 0.15 (r =0.31). A Pearson correlation matrix between AGB measured in the field and each spectral band reveals a modest but significant (p <0.05) correlation for most spectral bands. When mathematical functions are fitted through the NDVI and biomass data, an exponential fit shows the extinction and saturation at larger vegetation biomass values. The correlation between biomass and NDVI for DAIS as well as for the MERIS simulated dataset is modest. Further research is required to analyse the scale effects that limit the correlation between field and image AGB estimates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3381-3396
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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