Sprintsin, M, Karnieli, A, Berliner, P, Rotenberg, E, Yakir, D, Cohen, S (2009). Evaluating the performance of the MODIS Leaf Area Index (LAI) product over a Mediterranean dryland planted forest. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF REMOTE SENSING, 30(19), 5061-5069.
The launch of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) onboard the Terra and Aqua satellites improved the ability to evaluate several surface biophysical parameters, including Leaf Area Index (LAI), which is provided as an operational MODIS product, available at 1-km spatial resolution and at 8-day intervals. However, for heterogeneous and sparse planted forests that are common to the semi-arid eastern Mediterranean region, the data at low spatial resolution may be significantly biased by the contribution of different background elements to the total surface reflectance received by the sensor and cannot therefore correctly reflect the real forest phenology. In the current paper the performance of the MODIS LAI product was examined over a dryland Mediterranean forest in southern Israel. The study found a significant discrepancy between ground-based and MODIS LAI datasets. In general, MODIS LAI values were c. 51% of the ground-based LAI measurements. In addition ground based LAI peaked in the summer due to the natural growth cycle of the pine trees, while MODIS values peaked in the winter. The MODIS seasonal course could be explained by the development of annuals and crypto- and micro-phytes in the understorey and the clearing areas during the mid winter months that are included in the MODIS LAI product but not in the ground based measurements. However, for that period MODIS estimates should have exceeded ground-based estimates while in fact they were still lower. The relationship between MOD12C1 Land Cover Type 3 and MOD15A2 products is discussed.