Separating grassland and shrub vegetation by multidate pixel-adaptive spectral mixture analysis


Monitoring and assessment of land degradation and the processes driving it require effective change indicators at appropriate scales and spatial extent. In this context, the decomposition of Mediterranean rangeland vegetation into woody and herbaceous fractions is of great significance. This study demonstrates that a stratification of vegetation into woody and herbaceous components is possible with two satellite images of moderate spatial and spectral resolution. We used a pixel‐adaptive spectral mixture analysis to derive subpixel‐level vegetation abundances from satellite imagery representing two specific phenological stages of Mediterranean rangeland vegetation. The transferability of endmember models is often a problem of multidate spectral mixture analysis because of uneven spectral dimensionality within and among datasets. In our approach, the dimensionality of the mixture model was determined automatically, based on error calculations. This method enables the transfer of the mixture model to multiple scenes and allows for quantitative comparison of vegetation abundances. The results show that the woody vegetation fraction corresponds well with field data (R 2 = 0.76–0.91) and vegetation cover mapped from a very high resolution satellite image. The herbaceous vegetation fraction displays a good correlation compared to field mapped cover but still implies a moderate level of uncertainty (R 2 = 0.52–0.76). The approach pursued in this research may be valuable for the characterization of rangeland plant communities and for the derivation of vegetation‐related indicators useful for the monitoring and assessment of degradation.

International Journal of Remote Sensing, 27(15) 3251-3271
Tobias Kuemmerle
Tobias Kuemmerle
Professor & Head of the Conservation Biogeography Lab