Xin, QC; Li, J; Li, ZM; Li, YM; Zhou, XW (2020). Evaluations and comparisons of rule-based and machine-learning-based methods to retrieve satellite-based vegetation phenology using MODIS and USA National Phenology Network data. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF APPLIED EARTH OBSERVATION AND GEOINFORMATION, 93, 102189.

Vegetation phenology is a sensitive indicator that reflects the vegetation-atmosphere interactions and vegetation processes under global atmospheric changes. Fast-developing remote sensing technologies that monitor the land surface at high spatial and temporal resolutions have been widely used in vegetation phenology retrieval and analysis at a large scale. While researchers have developed many phenology retrieving methods based on remote sensing data, the relationships and differences among the phenology retrieving methods are unclear, and there is a lack of evaluation and comparison with the field phenology recoding data. In this study, we evaluated and compared eight phenology retrieving methods using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the USA National Phenology Network data from across North America. The studied phenology retrieving methods included six commonly used rule-based methods (i.e., amplitude threshold, the first-order derivative, the second-order derivative, the third-order derivative, the relative change curvature, and the curvature change rate) and two newly developed machine learning methods (i.e., neural network and random forest). At the large scale, the start of the season (SOS) values, derived by all methods, had similar spatial distributions; however, the retrieved values had large uncertainties in each pixel, and the end of the season (EOS) inverted values were largely different among methods. At the site scale, the SOS and EOS values extracted by the rule-based methods all had significant positive correlations with the field phenology observations. Among the rule-based methods, the amplitude threshold method performed the best. The machine learning methods outperformed the rule-based methods in terms of retrieving the SOS when assessed using the field observations. Our study highlighted that there were large differences among the methods in retrieving the vegetation phenology from satellite data and that researchers must be cautious in selecting an appropriate method for analyzing the satellite-retrieved phe-nology. Our results also demonstrated the importance of field phenology observations and the usefulness of the machine learning methods in understanding the satellite-based land surface phenology. These findings provide a valuable reference for the future development of global and regional phenology products.