Mapping understory vegetation using phenological characteristics derived from remotely sensed data

Journal or Book Title: Remote Sensing of Environment

Keywords: understory vegetation; MODIS; land surface phenology; spatial distribution; habitat modeling

Volume/Issue: 114/8

Page Number(s): 1833-1844

Year Published: 2010


Understory vegetation is an important component in forest ecosystems not only because of its contributions to forest structure, function and species composition, but also due to its essential role in supporting wildlife species and ecosystem services. Therefore, understanding the spatio-temporal dynamics of understory vegetation is essential for management and conservation. Nevertheless, detailed information on the distribution of understory vegetation across large spatial extents is usually unavailable, due to the interference of overstory canopy on the remote detection of understory vegetation.

While many efforts have been made to overcome this challenge, mapping understory vegetation across large spatial extents is still limited due to a lack of generality of the developed methods and limited availability of required remotely sensed data. In this study, we used understory bamboo in Wolong Nature Reserve, China as a case study to develop and test an effective and practical remote sensing approach for mapping understory vegetation. Using phenology metrics generated from a time series of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer data, we characterized the phenological features of forests with understory bamboo. Using maximum entropy modeling together with these phenology metrics, we successfully mapped the spatial distribution of understory bamboo (kappa: 0.59; AUC: 0.85).

In addition, by incorporating elevation information we further mapped the distribution of two individual bamboo species, Bashania faberi and Fargesia robusta (kappa: 0.68 and 0.70; AUC: 0.91 and 0.92, respectively). Due to its generality, flexibility and extensibility, this approach constitutes an improvement to the remote detection of understory vegetation, making it suitable for mapping different understory species in different geographic settings. Both biodiversity conservation and wildlife habitat management may benefit from the detailed information on understory vegetation across large areas through the applications of this approach.

DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2010.03.008

Type of Publication: Journal Article