Ground-based hyperspectral and spectro-directional reflectance characterization of Arctic tundra vegetation communities : field spectroscopy and field spectro-goniometry of Siberian and Alaskan tundra in preparation of the EnMAP satellite mission

Marcel.Buchhorn [ at ]


The Arctic tundra, covering approx. 5.5 % of the Earth’s land surface, is one of the last ecosystems remaining closest to its untouched condition. Remote sensing is able to provide information at regular time intervals and large spatial scales on the structure and function of Arctic ecosystems. But almost all natural surfaces reveal individual anisotropic reflectance behaviors, which can be described by the bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF). This effect can cause significant changes in the measured surface reflectance depending on solar illumination and sensor viewing geometries. The aim of this thesis is the hyperspectral and spectro-directional reflectance characterization of important Arctic tundra vegetation communities at representative Siberian and Alaskan tundra sites as basis for the extraction of vegetation parameters, and the normalization of BRDF effects in off-nadir and multi-temporal remote sensing data. Moreover, in preparation for the upcoming German EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program) satellite mission, the understanding of BRDF effects in Arctic tundra is essential for the retrieval of high quality, consistent and therefore comparable datasets. The research in this doctoral thesis is based on field spectroscopic and field spectro-goniometric investigations of representative Siberian and Alaskan measurement grids. The first objective of this thesis was the development of a lightweight, transportable, and easily managed field spectro-goniometer system which nevertheless provides reliable spectro-directional data. I developed the Manual Transportable Instrument platform for ground-based Spectro-directional observations (ManTIS). The outcome of the field spectro-radiometrical measurements at the Low Arctic study sites along important environmental gradients (regional climate, soil pH, toposequence, and soil moisture) show that the different plant communities can be distinguished by their nadir-view reflectance spectra. The results especially reveal separation possibilities between the different tundra vegetation communities in the visible (VIS) blue and red wavelength regions. Additionally, the near-infrared (NIR) shoulder and NIR reflectance plateau, despite their relatively low values due to the low structure of tundra vegetation, are still valuable information sources and can separate communities according to their biomass and vegetation structure. In general, all different tundra plant communities show: (i) low maximum NIR reflectance; (ii) a weakly or nonexistent visible green reflectance peak in the VIS spectrum; (iii) a narrow “red-edge” region between the red and NIR wavelength regions; and (iv) no distinct NIR reflectance plateau. These common nadir-view reflectance characteristics are essential for the understanding of the variability of BRDF effects in Arctic tundra. None of the analyzed tundra communities showed an even closely isotropic reflectance behavior. In general, tundra vegetation communities: (i) usually show the highest BRDF effects in the solar principal plane; (ii) usually show the reflectance maximum in the backward viewing directions, and the reflectance minimum in the nadir to forward viewing directions; (iii) usually have a higher degree of reflectance anisotropy in the VIS wavelength region than in the NIR wavelength region; and (iv) show a more bowl-shaped reflectance distribution in longer wavelength bands (>700 nm). The results of the analysis of the influence of high sun zenith angles on the reflectance anisotropy show that with increasing sun zenith angles, the reflectance anisotropy changes to azimuthally symmetrical, bowl-shaped reflectance distributions with the lowest reflectance values in the nadir view position. The spectro-directional analyses also show that remote sensing products such as the NDVI or relative absorption depth products are strongly influenced by BRDF effects, and that the anisotropic characteristics of the remote sensing products can significantly differ from the observed BRDF effects in the original reflectance data. But the results further show that the NDVI can minimize view angle effects relative to the contrary spectro-directional effects in the red and NIR bands. For the researched tundra plant communities, the overall difference of the off-nadir NDVI values compared to the nadir value increases with increasing sensor viewing angles, but on average never exceeds 10 %. In conclusion, this study shows that changes in the illumination-target-viewing geometry directly lead to an altering of the reflectance spectra of Arctic tundra communities according to their object-specific BRDFs. Since the different tundra communities show only small, but nonetheless significant differences in the surface reflectance, it is important to include spectro-directional reflectance characteristics in the algorithm development for remote sensing products.

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Thesis (PhD)
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Buchhorn, M. (2014): Ground-based hyperspectral and spectro-directional reflectance characterization of Arctic tundra vegetation communities : field spectroscopy and field spectro-goniometry of Siberian and Alaskan tundra in preparation of the EnMAP satellite mission , PhD thesis,


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