Pinty, B, Lavergne, T, Widlowski, JL, Gobron, N, Verstraete, MM (2009). On the need to observe vegetation canopies in the near-infrared to estimate visible light absorption. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, 113(1), 10-23.
This paper examines the rationale for and implications of using a near-infrared band to estimate the absorption of visible light by vegetation canopies. The benefits of using near-infrared observations have already been documented extensively in the literature, notably in the context of applications based on vegetation indices. These include, for instance, a degree of normalization with respect to undesirable perturbing factors. Our intent here is twofold: provide the theoretical basis to justify using measurements outside the main absorption band of vegetation for the purpose of retrieving canopy properties, and uncover the implications of doing so. On the basis of simple radiation transfer considerations, we conclude that near-infrared observations are critical to ensure the accurate retrieval of absorption estimates in the visible domain, and that observations within the absorption band help control the perturbing effect of the soil background. The analytical approach implemented here is conceptually similar to a scale analysis which permits us assessing the most significant contributions to the absorption and scattering processes in the vast majority of geophysical situations. Our final conclusions derived from a series of intermediate steps that need to be performed first. To this end, we illustrate in Section 2 the fact that a suitably-defined one-dimensional radiation transfer model can always be setup to represent accurately the reflected, transmitted and absorbed fraction of vertical fluxes in any vegetation volume at medium spatial resolutions (100 m or lower), and this irrespective of the local variability exhibited by the canopy attributes. This finding is exploited throughout the paper to show that 1) measurements performed in the near-infrared band are needed to ensure a large dynamic range in albedo for dense canopy conditions, by contrast to the visible domain, 2) measurements in the visible domain are effective to remove the contribution due to the background below vegetation for low to intermediate LAI conditions. This is made possible thanks to the soil line concept and the spectral invariance of the interception process, and 3) the estimation of visible light absorption in a canopy on the basis of combinations of spectral bands (as implemented in traditional vegetation indices) hinges on spectral correlations between variables, most notably those controlling the absorbing and scattering properties of the soil and leaves. A series of implications and consequences is drawn from our analysis and, in particular. the suggestion to adopt modern interpretation techniques, superseding the commonly used vegetation index approaches. These advances allow us to improve on current approaches, in particular by lifting some of the hypotheses associated with approaches based on combinations of spectral bands. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.