Which Vegetation Index? Benchmarking Multispectral Metrics to Hyperspectral Mixture Models in Diverse Cropland

Sousa, Daniel John; Small, Christopher

The monitoring of agronomic parameters like biomass, water stress, and plant health can benefit from synergistic use of all available remotely sensed information. Multispectral imagery has been used for this purpose for decades, largely with vegetation indices (VIs). Many multispectral VIs exist, typically relying on a single feature—the spectral red edge—for information. Where hyperspectral imagery is available, spectral mixture models can use the full VSWIR spectrum to yield further insight, simultaneously estimating area fractions of multiple materials within mixed pixels. Here we investigate the relationships between VIs and mixture models by comparing hyperspectral endmember fractions to six common multispectral VIs in California’s diverse crops and soils. In so doing, we isolate spectral effects from sensor- and acquisition-specific variability associated with atmosphere, illumination, and view geometry. Specifically, we compare: (1) fractional area of photosynthetic vegetation (Fv) from 64,000,000 3–5 m resolution AVIRIS-ng reflectance spectra; and (2) six popular VIs (NDVI, NIRv, EVI, EVI2, SR, DVI) computed from simulated Planet SuperDove reflectance spectra derived from the AVIRIS-ng spectra. Hyperspectral Fv and multispectral VIs are compared using both parametric (Pearson correlation, ρ) and nonparametric (Mutual Information, MI) metrics. Four VIs (NIRv, DVI, EVI, EVI2) showed strong linear relationships with Fv (ρ > 0.94; MI > 1.2). NIRv and DVI showed strong interrelation (ρ > 0.99, MI > 2.4), but deviated from a 1:1 correspondence with Fv. EVI and EVI2 were strongly interrelated (ρ > 0.99, MI > 2.3) and more closely approximated a 1:1 relationship with Fv. In contrast, NDVI and SR showed a weaker, nonlinear, heteroskedastic relation to Fv (ρ < 0.84, MI = 0.69). NDVI exhibited both especially severe sensitivity to unvegetated background (–0.05 < NDVI < +0.6) and saturation (0.2 < Fv < 0.8 for NDVI = 0.7). The self-consistent atmospheric correction, radiometry, and sun-sensor geometry allows this simulation approach to be further applied to indices, sensors, and landscapes worldwide.

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Remote Sensing

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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
Published Here
February 13, 2023