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Buma, B (2012). Evaluating the utility and seasonality of NDVI values for assessing post-disturbance recovery in a subalpine forest. ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT, 184(6), 3849-3860.

Forest disturbances around the world have the potential to alter forest type and cover, with impacts on diversity, carbon storage, and landscape composition. These disturbances, especially fire, are common and often large, making ground investigation of forest recovery difficult. Remote sensing offers a means to monitor forest recovery in real time, over the entire landscape. Typically, recovery monitoring via remote sensing consists of measuring vegetation indices (e.g., NDVI) or index-derived metrics, with the assumption that recovery in NDVI (for example) is a meaningful measure of ecosystem recovery. This study tests that assumption using MODIS 16-day imagery from 2000 to 2010 in the area of the Colorado's Routt National Forest Hinman burn (2002) and seedling density counts taken in the same area. Results indicate that NDVI is rarely correlated with forest recovery, and is dominated by annual and perennial forb cover, although topography complicates analysis. Utility of NDVI as a means to delineate areas of recovery or non-recovery are in doubt, as bootstrapped analysis indicates distinguishing power only slightly better than random. NDVI in revegetation analyses should carefully consider the ecology and seasonal patterns of the system in question.



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