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A Mixture Modeling Approach to Estimate

Vegetation Parameters for Heterogeneous

Canopies in Remote Sensing
M. A. Gilabert,* F. J. Garca-Haro,* and J. Melia*

I n this article, we describe a reflectance model which each depicting the fraction or abundance of a cover type.
parametrizes the reflectance of vegetation canopies from It has been successfully used in geological applications
optical properties of leaves and soil, and dominant can- (Adams et al., 1986; Thomson and Salisbury, 1993), cli-
opy structural parameters. The model assumes certain matological studies (Rambal et al., 1990), and vegetation
principles of geometric models, for example, that sensor studies (Smith et al., 1990). Nevertheless, linear reflec-
integrates the radiance reflected from three components, tance models are limited to reproduce the mixing behav-
plant, shaded soil, and illuminated soil. Its inversion pro- ior of natural ground surfaces due to the multiple scat-
vides compositional information of the ground surface tering of radiation with canopy elements, as has been
that is linked with the interpretation of the linear spec- observed by different authors (Roberts et al., 1993;
tral mixture modeling (LSMM). This model also offers Garca-Haro et al., 1996). In fact, energy leaving the can-
the potential for retrieving other meaningful biophysical opy surface is a nonlinear function of the optical proper-
properties such as LAI. The model has been tested on ties of leaves and soil, as was demonstrated by Borel and
simulated spectra of spectral mixtures in presence of sig- Gerstl (1994). For example, Huete et al. (1985) found
nificant multiple scattering. Results indicate that this mod- significant changes in the greenness of vegetation at
eling approach is a suitable remote sensing tool for retriev- varying the brightness of soil background. Ray and Mur-
ing the vegetation abundance in heterogeneous canopies, ray (1996) showed a significant multiple scattering within
which is interpreted as the fractional cover of plants with shrub canopies that resulted in significant nonlinear mix-
well-defined structural parameters. Elsevier Science ing. Other important weakness of the LSMM is that veg-
Inc., 2000 etation fraction maps are not the final output, but they
should be interpreted in terms of ecological variables,
such as ground vegetation cover or leaf area index (LAI).
INTRODUCTION The relationship between vegetation fraction and
Linear spectral mixture modeling (LSMM) has devel- ground variables is not still well understood, and also de-
oped in recent years as a suitable tool to extract land- pends on local scene characteristics (Garca-Haro, 1997).
cover information at a subpixel level. This procedure di- Thus more research towards a standardized and opera-
vides each ground resolution element into its constituent tional implementation of a mixture modeling system suit-
materials using endmembers which represent the spec- able for long-term monitoring is required. This can only
tral characteristics of the cover types. When applied to be achieved by means of simulation studies or well-con-
multispectral satellite data, the result is a series of images trolled experiments over a wide range of different eco-
systems. Furthermore, the current development of satel-
lite technology provides improved spatial and spectral
* Departament de Termodinamica, Facultat de Fsica, Universitat resolution of remote sensing data, which requires their
de Valencia, Burjassot, Valencia, Spain careful interpretation with the aid of reflectance models
Address correspondence to M. Amparo Gilabert, Departament de describing the complex process of the radiative transfer
Termodinamica, Facultat de Fsica, Dr. Moliner, 50, 46100-Burjassot,
Valencia, Spain. E-mail: M.Amparo.Gilabert@uv.es within the canopy.
Received 2 May 1999; revised 17 November 1999. Nevertheless, the inclusion of multiple scattering is
REMOTE SENS. ENVIRON. 72:328345 (2000)
Elsevier Science Inc., 2000 0034-4257/00/$see front matter
655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010 PII S0034-4257(99)00109-1
A Mixture Modeling Approach To Estimate Vegetation Parameters 329

one of the most complex tasks in the development of a

model to describe the canopy radiative regime. In fact,
nonlinear effects are scale-dependent, that is, canopy
spectra mixing with a soil background tends to a more
linear case of mixing, whereas leaf spectra within a can-
opy are more nonlinear. Moreover, unlike homogeneous
canopies, heterogeneous canopies have received little at-
tention in the literature due to their complexity. An addi-
tional question to be solved is the inverse problem of de-
termining vegetation structural and optical parameters
with a minimum computer time. For example, given six
TM channels, it is not possible to solve for a large num-
ber of unknowns without some a priori knowledge.
In this article we have addressed the problem of
compensating for errors due to multiple scattering in
vegetation canopies that lead to nonlinear mixing. First,
we have developed an empirical model that describes na-
dir reflectance behavior of multispectral images in het-
erogeneous canopies. This model parametrizes the re-
flectance of vegetation canopies from optical properties
of leaves and soil, and canopy structural parameters. The
model was intended for retrieving meaningful biophysi-
cal properties (e.g., LAI and vegetation fraction) from
spectral mixtures in presence of significant multiple scat-
tering. The feasibility of the model inversion has been
checked using multispectral data derived from a radiosity
canopy reflectance model (Garca-Haro et al., 1999).
These artificial data have enabled us to examine and con-
trol the processes that govern the canopy reflectance,
gain a deep insight into the model parameters, and pro-
pose further refinements to the model. In addition, this Figure 1. A) Representation of the canopy model. Each in-
dividual plant is idealized by means of a porous cylinder
modeling frame has also served to check the reliability of constituted by n layers of leaves, each layer characterized
LSMM estimates, evaluating the critical role of the vegeta- by its radius (R), LAI, and LAD, and separated by a dis-
tion endmember. LSMM outcomes were also compared tance (d). Optical parameters are leaf transmittance (s)
with the results provided by the proposed approach. and reflectance (q), and soil reflectance (qs). B) Leaf (i.e.,
q) and soil (i.e., qs) reflectance spectra (in %) obtained by
means of field radiometry. In this study, sq has been

In this section, we describe the inputs introduced to the

radiosity model to generate multispectral images. The ra- the capability of airborne or space-borne data for hetero-
diosity model has been successfully applied in the litera- geneous vegetated land covers, first with forward simula-
ture on different 3-D canopy structures (Borel et al., tions applied to large areas at appropriate spatial resolu-
1991; Goel et al., 1991). Garca-Haro et al. (1999) devel- tions and second with inversion techniques. We now
oped a radiosity model to compute bidirectional reflec- describe the inputs introduced to the radiosity model to
tance from a heterogeneous canopy approximated by an generate multispectral images.
arbitrary configuration of identical plants or clumps of Each individual plant is idealized by means of a po-
vegetation, placed on the ground surface in a prescribed rous cylinder formed by a stack of n opposing circular
manner. It explicitly computes solar radiation leaving layers (i.e., disks of radius R) of leaves (see Fig. 1A).
each individual surface, taking into account multiple scat- Each layer, consisting of randomly arranged leaves, is
tering and transmission processes between leaves and characterized by its leaf area index (LAI) and its leaf
soil, and occlusion of neighboring plants. This modeling angle distribution (LAD). The leaves are assumed not to
approach has shown to be a valuable and realistic ap- overlap each other, so that LAI of each individual layer
proximation of satellite data. The main strength of the ranges from 0 to 1. We have employed the bidirectional
model comes from the characterization of the spectral reflectance factor (BRF) to describe the behavior of nat-
behavior of canopies uniquely from a reduced number ural surfaces since this is the magnitude most frequently
of dominant parameters. This enables us to investigate employed in radiometry. Though this is a hemispherical-
330 Gilabert et al.

directional reflectance factor, in this work it will be zenith angle hL: i) horizontal leaves, that is,
termed reflectance for brevity. Thus optical parameters hLp/2, ii) spherical LAD, that is, hL being a co-
include leaf reflectance (q) and transmittance (s), and sine distribution in the interval [0, p], and iii) an
soil reflectance (qs). Other plant parameters are trunk intermediate case of predominantly horizontal
height (h) and crown height (H). In addition to canopy leaves, hL being a cosine distribution in the inter-
parameters, the model requires the knowledge of scene val [p/4, 3p/4].
parameters such as atmospheric conditions and sun/view The six spectral regions corresponding to the op-
angles in order to assess the spectral distribution of in- tical wavebands of Landsat Thematic Mapper
coming irradiance from a model of atmosphere. The (TM), since this sensor is well suited to vegeta-
fraction of diffuse irradiance is parametrized by means tion monitoring (Buttner and Csillag, 1989; Rip-
of the turbidity factor b (Iqbal, 1983) and the sun zenith ple et al., 1991). The visible region (TM1, TM2,
angle hs. and TM3) is dominated by the effect of chloro-
The scene is a rectangular matrix cell formed by the phyll absorption, particularly in the blue (TM1)
juxtaposition of squared, identical cells of side 2R. It is and red (TM3). The near infrared region (TM4)
also assumed that plants and cells centers coincide. The is characterized by low absorption and high scat-
shape of plants is specified by a unique variable: its simi- tering of radiation on the intercellular walls of
larity parameter b, defined as the height-to-width ratio the leaf issue. In the mid-infrared region (TM5
(Jasinski and Eagleson, 1990). For example in our case and TM7), scattering is still high, and in addi-
of cylindrical plants we have b2R/H. In order to reduce tion the absorption of radiation by water inside
the computations, multiple scattering processes of distant the plant is very significant (Rosema et al.,
elements (i.e., belonging to plants situated at a distance 1992). For a summary of leaf optical properties,
farther than three times the crown diameter) are ne- refer to classic references by Gates et al. (1965)
glected. In addition, R, H, n, LAI, and LAD are assumed and Woolley (1971).
constant for all plants within the scene.


Several model inputs have been fixed in this study for REFLECTANCE MODEL
conciseness. For example, we have adopted an acquisi- Canopy reflectance is governed by processes such as ra-
tion geometry characterized by a solar zenith hs, equal to diation interception by leaves, transmission, and multiple
30, solar azimuth us, equal to 30 (0south; eastposi- scattering between leaves and soil. These processes vary
tive), nadir view, atmospheric conditions typical of a very depending on a large number of interrelated factors, ba-
transparent day (i.e., turbidity factor b equal to 0.02), sically spectral region, LAI, LAD, shape, and dimensions
trunk height h equal to crown radius R, spectral signa- of plant and scene parameters (Suits, 1972; Bunnik,
tures of leaves and soil (quaternary) as shown in Figure 1978; Goel, 1988; Garca-Haro et al., 1999). In this arti-
1B, and a random spatial distribution of plants. Without cle, we have developed an empirical model that de-
loss of generality, we have set R1m. scribes the nadir reflectance behavior of multispectral
For the rest of model parameters, the following in- images of heterogeneous canopies. In future work, the
puts have been considered: model will be generalized to accommodate angular data.
Pixel size was varied from 6 m to 16 m. Recent work has demonstrated that horizontal mixing of
Two different values of the crown height: i) vegetation types or materials (e.g., shrub canopies, grass
H2R, that is, b1, characteristic of plants with canopies, and bare soils) is primarily a linear process at
horizontal structure (bushlike) and ii) H5R, landscape scales, when endmembers are whole canopy
that is, b0.4, which could correspond to cylin- spectra (Roberts et al., 1993). A similar result was found
drical trees presenting a higher contribution of by other authors (Asner, 1998; Asner et al., 1998), but,
shadows. In both cases, the trunk height (h) con- within a canopy (e.g., grassland), the reflectance is more
sidered was 1m. nonlinear. Moreover, when a lot of intercanopy shading
Two different number of layers: n10 (corre- occurs, and when the cover types cooccur at high spatial
sponding to a spatial distribution of leaves inside density (e.g., shrublands with many small gaps between
the canopy relatively laminar or stratified), and the shrubs), the nonlinear mixing dominates. In fact,
n20 (i.e., a more compact spatial distribution while horizontal extent of covers can be adequately de-
of leaves). termined from a linear mixing perspective, the interac-
LAI of plants was varied from 0.5 to 7. tions of photons with vegetation components in vertical
Three different types of LADs, with azimuthal space is known to be highly nonlinear (Myneni et al.,
symmetry and different degrees of leaf inclina- 1989; Borel and Gerstl, 1994; Asner, 1998).
tion, characterized by the distribution of the leaf The proposed model identifies three macroscopic
A Mixture Modeling Approach To Estimate Vegetation Parameters 331

components within the scene: vegetation (v), shaded soil tation cover in sparse canopies (Asner, 1998). In general,
(ss), and illuminated soil (is). We have first made the as- interaction of NIR radiation with successive leaf layers
sumption that these whole components mix linearly. Ac- results in a positive correlation with LAI due to the high
cording to the linear reflectance model, pixel reflectance amount of radiative fluxes scattered in this region by leaf
R(k) is expressed as the summation of the reflectances material, especially at the top layers. In the rest of spec-
from all components each multiplied by its relative frac- tral regions the relationship between reflectance and LAI
tional cover: is generally negative, basically due to the fact that most
R(k)fvRv(k)fisRis(k)fssRss(k). (1) of the soil irradiance is intercepted by leaves, which have
lower reflectance values than soil background. Neverthe-
It should be noted that shaded soil (ss) refers to shadow less, the sensitivity of plant reflectance to LAI becomes
cast by the canopy. Thus the model neglects shading by increasingly weak with increasing LAI beyond a thresh-
topography and illumination. Hence it will incorrectly old value. This saturating effect has been widely reported
model the effects of changes in surface slope, aspect, and in the literature in many experimental studies.
the effects of surface roughness. Furthermore, the model Curran (1983) showed that the asymptotic regime is
does not account for nonphotosynthetic vegetation (NPV), reached at LAI values of around 34 for short crops as
that is, plant material lacking chlorophyll (branches, wheat, corn, sorghum, and various grasses. Many experi-
woody stems, and standing litter), which is a critical mental studies have fitted spectral data to the exponen-
weakness in most arid vegetation and many forests. Al-
tial relationship, achieving good correlations (Peterson et
though only a few studies have addressed the importance
al., 1987; Price and Bausch, 1995; Gilabert et al., 1996).
of NPV in canopy reflectance data (e.g., Van Leeuwen
Research on agricultural monocultures (Asrar et al.,
and Huete, 1996; Huemmrich and Goward, 1997), NPV
1984; Bauer, 1985) has shown that a strong positive rela-
comprises a substantial portion of the canopy in many
tionship exists between combinations of red to NIR re-
ecosystems such as grasslands, shrublands, savannas, and
flectance and total biomass and LAI. Inverse asymptotic
dry woodlands (Asner, 1998). The importance of NPV
relationships have been observed between red reflec-
has been demonstrated in an analysis of AVIRIS images
tance and LAI that tend to saturate at LAI values of
of Jasper Ridge, California (Roberts et al., 1993). NPV
about 23. Similar results have been demonstrated for
spectrum mimics that of the soil. Since the proposed
natural communities such as wet and dry biomass of
modeling approach neglects the NPV, its spectral re-
mixed herbaceous species (Tucker et al., 1985). A similar
sponse is partitioned as a mixture of soil with minor
physical dependence has also been established by several
quantities of green vegetation and shaded soil (Roberts
et al., 1993). One way to deal with these sources of error authors through different canopy reflectance models
could be the inclusion of endmembers for dry materials (Clevers, 1988; Baret, 1991; Price, 1992; Borel and
or shade in Eq. (1). Gerstl, 1994). However, the relationship between LAI
Within each of the three components of the Eq. (1) and remotely sensed response is less well known in forest
mixtures are more nonlinear (e.g., leaf spectra within a canopies (Holben and Justice, 1980; Sellers, 1987; Pe-
canopy). In the three following subsections we have terson et al., 1987; Danson, 1995; Hall et al., 1995). For
modeled the spectra of the tree components of Eq. (1), example, Spanner et al. (1990) related spectral data to
and evaluated their invertibility. For the spectra of the the LAI of 73 stands across a large area in the western
components we have proposed relatively simplistic geo- United States. They found a negative relationship be-
metric models that address some dominant nonlinear ef- tween red reflectance and LAI, which reached an asymp-
fects, for example, plant reflectance is a nonlinear func- tote at an LAI of around 45, but no relationship was
tion of the optical properties of leaves and soil. Model found in the near-infrared region. A similar result was
biophysical parameters include some meaningful proper- obtained by Peterson et al. (1987) analyzing 18 conifer-
ties (vegetation cover, LAI) that might be retrieved by ous forest stand with a range of projected LAI of 0.616,
inversion strategies. Finally, in the next section we have but in this case LAI approached to its asymptotic at
attempted to incorporate into the model intercanopy higher LAI values of approximately 8.
shading and multiple scattering between plants, which Nevertheless, the multispectral reflectance proper-
are responsible for nonlinear mixing. To model these ef- ties of plant canopies are not a simple function of LAI
fects, it is necessary to assume that the spectra of the but are known to be affected by a wide range of biophys-
components do not mix linearly as in Eq. (1), but depend ical, biochemical, and structural variables, including can-
also on the subpixel composition, for example, the spec- opy variables and community variables. For example, the
tra of plants can vary due to the presence of neighboring increase of leaf inclination is generally associated with
plants (i.e., Rv varies with fv). decreased effective LAI of plants, i.e., a shift of the LAI
of saturation reflectance towards higher LAI values
Reflectance of Individual Plants (Garca-Haro et al., 1999). The structural properties of
LAI and LAD are the dominant controls on canopy re- canopies that determine the interception and reflection
flectance with the exception of soil reflectance and vege- of solar radiation are, in order of importance (Jarvis and
332 Gilabert et al.

Leverenz, 1984), a) LAI, b) vertical distribution of fo- species, in this study we have assumed for simplicity that
liage, c) distribution of leaf inclination angles, d) leaf re- reflectance and transmittance are similar. This assump-
flectance, transmittance, and scattering properties, e) tion is accepted for many thin leaved grass and broad-
grouping or clumpiness of the foliage, and f) the distri- leaved deciduous species (Gates et al., 1965; Woolley,
bution of leaf azimuthal angles. In this study factors 1971). Hence R(k) is expressed by the formula
a)d) will be modeled. The variations induced by domi-
R(k)A[qv(k)]B , (5)
nant canopy structural parameters, that is, factors a)d),
have been now incorporated into an empirical reflec- where A and B are parameters well related to plant
tance model of plant reflectance, Rv(k). Factors e) and structural characteristics. In order to provide some theo-
f), while potentially important within the canopy, were retical support to Eq. (5), we will assume the example
not addressed in this study. of canopy model considered by Borel and Gerstl, (1994),
The model is based on relatively simplistic canopy ge- formed by a large number of infinite layers of uniformly
ometric models, neglects the effects of surface roughness distributed horizontal leaves. Leaf area index of the lay-
and topography, and does not account for nonphotosyn- ers, L, and leaf optical properties, qv and s, are assumed
thetic components within the canopy. The model assumes constant. It is easy to see that the contributions of the
that the LAI of plant needed to reach the saturation re- first and second order scattering (i.e., photons that only
flectance is a function of a parameter C which is practi- interact with one and two leaves, respectively) to the
cally independent of wavelength and, therefore, of leaf overall reflectance are given by Eq. (6):
optical properties. The expression of the model is the fol- 1
lowing: R(order1)Lqv(1(1L)2(1L)4)qv ,
Rv(k)R(k)[qs(k)R(k)]exp(CLAI), (2)
R(order2)qvs . (6)
where: (2L)
qs(k) is the soil reflectance. Assuming that qvs, the reflectance can be parametrized
R(k) is the saturation reflectance. Since we a power series in qv:
have assumed that this reflectance is indepen-
dent of LAI, it is the asymptotic value of plant Raqv(1bq2vcq3v), (7)
reflectance at large LAI. where the coefficients a, b, c, etc. are decreasing positive
C is a parameter that describes the capacity of functions of the structural parameters (in this case, L)
plant elements to intercept radiant flux. that quantify the contribution of the different orders of
To provide an enhanced understanding to Eq. (2), we multiple scattering to overall reflectance. In a more real-
will express the reflectance of a plant as mixed spectrum istic model of canopy (finite plant dimensions, inclined
of exposed soil (s) and exposed canopy (c) spectra: leaves, etc.), the estimation of these coefficients would
be unaffordable due to its complexity. Equation (5) con-
Rvfcqcfsqs , (3) stitutes a simplistic approach that retrieves useful infor-
where fc and fs are the fractions of exposed soil and ex- mation about canopy architecture by means of parame-
posed canopy, respectively. If we consider that the frac- ters A and B.
tions sum to 1 within the plant, it follows that In order to compare Eqs. (5) and (7), we will assume
that the power series in brackets of Eq. (7) can be ex-
Rv(1fs)qcfsqs . (4) pressed as a power of leaf reflectance, that is, qxv (with
As we can see, Eq. (4) has the same form as Eq. (2), x0). In this case both equations have the same form,
where qcR and fsexp(CLAI). What this equation where Aa and B1x. Thus, we can relate parameter
tells us is that the fraction of exposed soil within a plant A with the contribution of the first order scattering to
decreases exponentially as a function of a weighting pa- the overall reflectance. This contribution is basically dic-
rameter C (which varies with sun angle and architecture) tated by the capability of the upper layers to intercept
and LAI. It should be noted that parameter C assumes incoming solar radiation. Otherwise, since multiple scat-
complete absorption when photons strike an element tering between leaves may be mathematically expressed
(i.e., it is a blocking factor), and thus does not vary with as a power of leaf reflectance and transmittance, large
wavelength. If we had considered C as an extinction or values of parameter B are also indicative of an important
attenuation coefficient, it would have varied with wave- contribution of high order multiple scattering. In a sim-
length. plistic interpretation, B expresses the average or effective
The model parametrizes the saturation reflectance, number of scattering processes of light with leaf material
R(k) as a power of leaf reflectance qv(k) and leaf trans- across the canopy. Nevertheless, the interpretation of pa-
mittance s(k). Although reflectance and transmittance rameters A and B is more complex since both parameters
are not equal in many plants and vary greatly between are highly correlated. For example, high values of B cor-
A Mixture Modeling Approach To Estimate Vegetation Parameters 333

Table 1. Values of Parameters A, B, C Obtained in the Fit C, jointly with the root mean square (RMS) of the resid-
of the Plant Reflectance Model [Eqs. (1) and (2)], Jointly ual, that is, the difference between the reflectance of an
with the RMS of the Residuala
individual plant (as derived by the radiosity model) and
Estimated Parameters the reflectance predicted by the described model. Re-
b LAD A B C RMS sults correspond to the case of plants with a compact ar-
1 Spherical 1.19 1.31 0.76 0.0088 chitecture (20 layers of leaves). We can observe that the
Predom. horiz. 1.41 1.33 0.95 0.0072 RMS of the residual is very low, especially when b0.4,
Horizontal 1.52 1.34 1.00 0.0076 which reveals a close agreement of the proposed model.
0.4 Spherical 0.90 1.18 0.68 0.0023 Results obtained for more stratified plants (e.g., with
Predom. horiz. 1.10 1.18 0.91 0.0026 only 10 layers of leaves) for parameters A, B, and C did
Horizontal 1.19 1.19 1.00 0.0040 not change significantly. This seems to indicate that leaf
Results correspond to plants with a compact architecture (20 layers) spatial distribution has a minor influence on plant reflec-
and different structural parameters. tance, as it was found by Garca-Haro et al. (1999).
Therefore, in the rest of this study the number of layers
has been set to a fixed value of 20.
respond to high contribution of multiple scattering of ra- The values obtained for parameters A, B, and C con-
diation with foliage elements, which should be enclosed firm their initial interpretation. For example, C is greater
by a high saturation reflectance. However, an increase of for plants with horizontal leaves due to their higher
parameter B causes a diminution of R(k) and, therefore, opacity, that causes a saturation of reflectance at lower
it should be compensated by an increase of parameter A LAI values. Furthermore, A and B present higher values
(i.e., positive correlation between A and B).
for b1, as the distance between layers increases (and
Equation (5) neglects the fact that soil reflectance
hence the contribution of multiple scattering), an effect
can have a major impact on canopy reflectance even at
that is more pronounced when leaves are horizontal. We
closed canopy, that is, when there is no sunlit or shaded
can also observe that A is significantly higher for hori-
soil that can be observed. Although the contribution of
zontal leaves, since they are more effective in terms of
soil background at 100% canopy closure only corre-
solar direct radiation interception. Otherwise, B is rather
sponds to third and higher order scattering of radiation
insensitive to leaves inclination. Finally, C increases with
(i.e., photons that are transmitted by leaves, then re-
leaves inclination and is rather insensitive to the value of b.
flected by soil, and finally arrive at the sensor after being
Figure 2 shows the variation of plant reflectance as
scattered again by leaf material), Huete et al. (1985)
a function of the LAI of plants, jointly with the curves
demonstrated with real measurements that canopy re-
provided by the proposed model [Eqs. (1) and (2)]. It
flectance is still quite sensitive to this effect. Future work
confirms the existence of a good model fit to the data.
will be devoted to address this effect, for example, in-
Nevertheless, we can observe a noticeable modeling er-
cluding in Eq. (5) a factor that has a dependence with
ror in the TM4, especially for b1, probably due to that
soil reflectance (qs) which should vanish for asymptotic
the model might neglect somewhat the role of multiple
values of LAI.
scattering of NIR within the canopy. We should also
In this study, a nonlinear minimization procedure
note that infinite reflectance saturates at LAI values typi-
was used to fit the model to the data and thereby esti-
cally around 4, when the exponential term becomes small
mate all the model parameters, or some of the parame-
enough so that little if no change in canopy reflectance
ters if the rest are known. The fitting procedure used to
occurs. Saturation at similarly small LAI values is found
estimate parameters was based on the MIGRAD algo-
in crop, grasses, and natural communities of mixed her-
rithm (Minuit, 1992), since it showed to be more accu-
baceous species. However, forest canopies generally satu-
rate than other numerical procedures like SIMPLEX
rate at higher LAI values of around 68. Consequently,
(Minuit, 1992). MIGRAD is a variable metric method
values obtained for parameter C are not representative
with inexact line search, a stable metric updating
of forest canopies. This also suggests that the model will
scheme, and checks for the positive-definiteness of the
probably be more limited to deal with forest canopies.
covariance matrix, which is guaranteed by adding an ap-
propriate constant along the diagonal. The main weak- Inversion of the Model
ness of the algorithm is that it fails if the first derivatives We have now analyzed the invertibility of the model to
are very inaccurate. When the acceptability of the solu- estimate the LAI of plants. Parameters A, B, and C were
tions required the use of constraints (e.g., to constraint kept fixed (knowns) and LAI was inverted as a free pa-
the fractions to be positive), appropriate penalty terms rameter. In the first example we considered values for A,
have been added to the objective function. B, and C solved by a nonlinear minimization technique
In this first example, we consider the case where A, undertaken on plants with identical structural parameters
B, and C are solved from modeled spectra with known (reported in Table 1). The inversion provided extremely
LAI. Table 1 shows the values of parameters A, B, and accurate estimates of LAI irrespectively of the different
334 Gilabert et al.

Figure 2. Values of plant reflectance derived by the ra-

diosity model in four different spectral regions: TM3(),
TM4 (), TM5 (), and TM7 (), jointly with the val-
ues predicted by the proposed model, that is, Eqs. (1)
and (2) (discontinuous line), for plants with horizontal
leaves and different values of LAI and similarity parame-
ter b. Note: TM3 band: 0.630.69 lm; TM4 band: 0.76
0.90 lm; TM5 band: 1.551.75 lm; TM7 band: 2.08
2.35 lm.

LADs and similarity parameters of plants, even for dense efficient C with LAD by replacing LAI by LAIeff
canopies (i.e., LAI5). in Eq. (1).
We next used an identical set of values for parame- 2. The reflectance of saturation, R(k), is positively
ters A, B, and C in the LAI inversion for plants present- correlated with leaf transmittance, and negatively
ing a range of structural parameters. This example (i.e., correlated with the average inclination of leaves.
parameters are assumed uniform between different In order to model this effect we have introduced
plants) corresponds to a more unfavorable case, although a factor in Eq. (2):
more tractable in real satellite scenes. The set of values
was solved in a similar fashion but now the minimization R(k)AgL[qv(k)]B . (10)
scheme was undertaken on plants with different LADs The different parameters were computed by means of a
and similarity parameters. The following values were ob- model fit, obtaining the following values:
tained: A1.21, B1.25, and C0.884. In this case a
a. A1.58; B1.35; C0.96; RMS0.015 (for
higher RMS value (0.020) reveals a poorer fit of the
model, although it is still acceptably good. However, the
b. A1.22; B1.20; C0.99; RMS0.008 (for
inversion of LAI provided a bias of estimated LAI over
25% for intermediate or dense plants (i.e., LAI3). For
example, LAI was overestimated for plants with hori- RMS values reveal a significant improvement of the
zontal leaves, while it was underestimated for plants with model performance. Furthermore, the inversion of the
spherical LAD. One possible solution of the problem model lets us estimate simultaneously LAI and |hL|
consists in finding a functional dependence between with reasonably high accuracy. For example, the error of
plant structural parameters and LAD. To achieve this estimated LAI was under 5% even for intermediate and
goal, it was necessary to model the influence of two ef- higher values of LAI. Similarly, except for low values of
fects: LAI, the error of estimated |hL| was small, typically
below 5.
1. The greater the leaves inclination, the lower the
plant opacity and, therefore, the lower its effec-
tive LAI (i.e., saturation is reached for higher Reflectance of Shaded Soil
LAI values). For example, in the simplest case of Soil reflectance is altered by the presence of surrounding
a unique layer of leaves, the effective LAI plants, due to three main effects (Garca-Haro et al.,
(namely, LAIeff) would be equal to the projection 1999):
of the leaves in the direction perpendicular to the i. The decrease of sun direct radiation, due to the
sensor. In general, we may assume that the LAIeff presence of leaves in the direct line of sight be-
of a plant is equal to a constant multiplied by a tween soil surface and sun.
decreasing function of leaves inclination. We ii. The decrease of skylight radiation, due to its in-
adopted a sinusoidal dependence, due to its sim- terception by leaves of neighboring plants.
plicity and the good performance achieved [Eqs. iii. The increase of side scattered diffuse radiation in-
(8) and (9)]: cident on surface after multiple scattering with
leaves of neighboring plants. Field measurements
LAIeffLAIgL , (8)
and other radiosity models (Curtiss and Ustin,
1988; Roberts et al., 1990a; Borel and Gerst,
gLcos hL , (9)
1994; Roberts et al., 1995; Ray and Murray,
where || represents the modulus and is an 1996) all show that the side scattered light can
average over the angular distribution function. be very significant. For example, Roberts et al.
Thus we have parametrized the dependence of co- (1990a) showed an increase in over 20% in soil
A Mixture Modeling Approach To Estimate Vegetation Parameters 335

reflectance adjacent to a horizontal leaf placed Table 2. Values of Parameters fi and j Obtained in the Fit
over a white background. of the Model [Eq. (9)], for the Case of a Soil Surface
Partially Shaded by a Single Plant, Jointly with the RMS
Effect i has generally a dominant contribution, caus- of the Residuala
ing a decrease in apparent soil reflectance. Otherwise, Estimated Parameters
effect ii greatly increases with atmospheric turbidity,
b LAD fi j RMS
while effect iii is more significant in the NIR. Neverthe-
less, the relative influence of these effects depends on 1 Spherical 0.79 5.0 0.0021
Predom. horiz. 0.78 6.0 0.0025
the spatial distribution, density, and structural parame- Horizontal 0.78 6.5 0.0026
ters of plants.
0.4 Spherical 0.66 3.2 0.0027
Neglecting the presence of diffuse radiation (i.e., ab- Predom. horiz. 0.65 4.2 0.0028
sence of transmission of leaves and dispersion of atmo- Horizontal 0.64 4.7 0.0029
sphere), the projection of (black) shadow cast by a single a
Results correspond to plants with different structural parameters.
layer L of leaves on soil background is proportional to
the leaf area index or porosity of the layer, LAIL; that is,
in a horizontal average sense, a fraction LAIL of the radi- portional to leaf transmittance and inversely proportional
ation incident upon the layer of leaves will be inter- to both density of leaves and opacity of plants. The first
cepted by it, and therefore each intermediate layer is term, (1LAIL)j, is a pure geometric or blocking factor
transparent with a fraction (1LAIL). Nevertheless, the (which varies with sun angle and architecture), related to
shadow cast by an entire plant is a complex function of the probability of complete absorption of incoming radia-
many variables including among others plant architec- tion by the canopy. The second term, sk, is related to the
ture, LAI, LAD, leaf optical properties, scene geometry, degree of attenuation of radiation through canopy, which
or atmospheric conditions. In fact, shadow is not uniform varies across wavelength due to the optical properties of
(e.g., it is less dark in the borders). the leaves. This model does not take into account side
Our model does not take into account all these ef- scattered radiation, which can be significant in NIR.
fects, but only the most significant ones. It assumes that Moreover, in order to simplify the model, the shadow
a plant is transparent with a fraction (1LAIL) elevated factor was assumed to be independent across wave-
to a parameter j which is termed opacity factor. This lengths (i.e., k0). Hence the model only parametrizes
parameter represents the average number of layers that the blocking effects, neglecting the attenuation of light
project shadow on the soil, that is, the degree of opacity inside the canopy. Although this assumption is very sim-
of the canopy or the darkness of the shadow. In gen- plistic, and brings about significant errors in NIR reflec-
eral, it is expected that horizontal leaves are more effi- tance, it is justifiable due to its small influence on re-
cient in terms of radiation interception. Furthermore, trieving biophysical properties such as the LAI of the
canopies with large separation between layers will have plants, as is noted in the next subsection. Future work
also a lower opacity. Based on leaf optical properties and is required to address the effects of the attenuation of
measurements of diffuse scattering in canopies, it can be light on real canopies, and also the spatial variation of
shown that shadow varies spectrally preserving some fea- shadow. These effects are highly nonlinear and depend
tures contained in leaf transmittance. on the scale.
Thus the reflectance of partially shaded soil, Rss(k), To evaluate this model, we considered a soil surface
was parametrized as the reflectance of illuminated soil and different configurations with several plants around it.
[qs(k)] multiplied by its relative area fi, plus the reflec- Results showed that an increase in the number of neigh-
tance of shaded soil multiplied by its relative area (1fi): boring plants produced an overall diminution on soil re-
flectance that is similar to a decrease of fi in Eq. (11).
Rss(k)qs(k)[fi(1fi)(1LAIL)jsk], (11) We then analyzed the variation of fi and j with plant
where: structural parameters. Table 2 shows the results obtained
from a soil surface partially shaded by a single neigh-
LAIL is a parameter in the range [0, 1] that is a
boring plant.
function of the LAI of each individual layer of
Results reveal the good performance of the fit and
leaves, for example, LAILLAI/n.
confirm the initial interpretation of parameters fi and j.
j is a parameter which is termed opacity factor.
In fact, fi is practically insensitive to LAD, but it varies
k is a positive parameter related to architecture.
with the value of b, since the proportion of shaded soil
The term sk models shadow wavelength varia-
is well related to crown height. Otherwise, j diminishes
tions due to transmission of radiation through
at increasing the amount of radiation received by soil.
Thus j is inversely correlated with both average inclina-
Equation (11) expresses that shaded soil reflectance tion of leaves and height of crown. This confirms the ini-
is reduced by a shadow factor, (1LAIL)jsk, which is pro- tial interpretation of j as an opacity factor, for example,
336 Gilabert et al.

Figure 3. Reflectance of shaded soil cells in four dif-

ferent spectral regions: TM3(), TM4(), TM5(),
and TM7(), jointly with the values obtained by the
proposed model using the values of fi and j shown in
Table 2 (discontinuous line), for plants with spherical
LAD and different values of LAI and b.

higher opacity values for plants with more compact ar- rametrization provides a significant improvement of
chitecture and horizontal leaves. Figure 3 shows the vari- model performance for k1.3 it does not ensure the si-
ation of shaded soil reflectance with the LAI of plants, multaneous estimate of LAI and |hL|, since both pa-
along with the values obtained using the proposed pa- rameters appear solely as multiplying factors. In addition,
rameterization (discontinuous line). the inclusion of transmittance in Eq. (11), that is, sk,
We observed that LAI, b, and (although not shown proved to be inconsequential to the inversion of the
in Fig. 3) LAD of plants have a considerable influence model inasmuch as it did not significantly improve the
on shaded soil reflectance. We also observed that al- accuracy for retrieving LAI and |hL|.
though effect i, that is, the shadow cast by the plant, has
the highest influence, effect iii, that is, the increase of Reflectance of Heterogeneous Canopies
multiple scattering radiation received by soil from neigh- Reflectances of plant (Rv) and shaded soil (Rss) have been
boring plants, is also significant in the NIR. Modeling parametrized in Eqs. (2), (3), and (11). Otherwise, reflec-
errors in TM4 (e.g., an underestimation over 0.01 is ob- tance of illuminated soil (Ris) increases as a consequence
served for LAI5) are in part due to this side scattering of the radiation scattered from neighboring plants (i.e., ef-
diffuse NIR radiation. They are also due to the model fect iii, mentioned in the above section). We propose that
assumption that canopy opacity is uniform across wave- this increase is directly proportional to leaf transmittance
lengths. Modeling errors in TM4 reflectance were signif- and leaf density according to the formula [Eq. (12)]:
icantly reduced when introducing the dependence in leaf
transmittance in Eq. (11), that is, considering k as a non- Ris(k)qs(k)[1k1sLAILk2] , (12)
zero free parameter. A value of k1.3 was obtained in where k1 and k2 are constants. This equation has a similar
the minimization procedure. interpretation to Eq. (11). The amount of side scattered
Inversion of the Model light is quantified by the term, k1sLAILk2, which is a com-
We first analyzed the invertibility of the model to esti- bination of three factors: 1) LAILk2, related to the proba-
mate canopy parameters in a simple case, when LAI is bility that incoming photons strike one or more foliage
the unique free parameter (i.e., b and LAD are known), elements; 2) leaf transmittance s; and 3) a geometric effi-
finding that the model allows for accurate estimates of ciency factor, k1, related to the probability that down-
LAI, even for dense canopies (e.g., when LAI5). We wards scattered photons reach the adjacent soil. Logi-
next considered the case of unknown LAD (i.e., assum- cally, k1 and k2 vary with sun angle and architecture,
ing that parameters fi and j do not depend on LAD). although this variation is neglected in this study. In order
We obtained the following parameters: to quantify these constants, we considered different
plants and averaged the reflectance (provided by the ra-
a. fi0.79; j5.9; RMS0.0062 (for b1). diosity simulation model) of the surrounding soil corre-
b. fi0.65; j4.1; RMS0.0082 (for b0.4). sponding to three adjacent soil cells. Results showed that
In this case, although the agreement between the side scattering light causes an increase in soil reflectance
original and modeled values was still reasonably good over 5% in NIR, but it is significantly lower in the rest
(with the RMS of the residual below 0.01), the error of of regions (Garca-Haro, 1997). An acceptable model fit
estimated LAI was over 30% when the LAI of the plant (RMS0.002) with k10.15 and k20.8 was found. In
was intermediate or high (i.e., LAI3). For example, order to simplify the model for heterogeneous canopies,
LAI was overestimated in the case of horizontal leaves, the contribution of this side scattering diffuse radiation
and underestimated in the case of spherical LAD. One has been neglected [i.e., Ris(k)qs(k)]. Future refine-
possible solution could consist in finding a functional de- ments of the model will incorporate this contribution, for
pendence between the opacity factor j and LAD (e.g., example, assuming an empirical relationship between the
a sinusoidal function). Thus we replaced j by jgkL in Eq. vegetation cover and the area of soil affected by this
(11) [see Eq. (9)]. Results showed that, although this pa- source of illumination.
A Mixture Modeling Approach To Estimate Vegetation Parameters 337

We will denote by fs the fraction of soil (i.e., plants projecting shadow (characteristic of plants 1, 2,
fsfisfss), and by fi the relative proportion of illuminated and 4) generally prevails over the increase due to scatter-
soil (i.e., fifis/fs). Thus, by replacing Eq. (2) and (11) in ing radiation with elements of neighboring plants (char-
Eq. (1), we have Eq. (13): acteristic of plants 3 and 5, with absence of plants that
intercept sun direct radiation), particularly for spherical
LAD and b0.4 (Fig. 4C). Otherwise, when plants are
fsqs(k)[fi(1fi)(1LAIL)j]. (13) dense (e.g. LAI5), the net effect is to increase the
Naturally the physical acceptability of the solutions im- overall plant reflectance in TM4, due to the dominance
plies the accomplishment of the following constraints: of the multiple scattering effect. For example, for plants
with horizontal leaves and b1 (Fig. 4B) an increase of
fvfs1, 0fv1, 0fi1. (14) plant reflectance is found even for plant 1, despite the
This parametrization constitutes an extension of the lin- great amount of shadows cast by the rest of plants.
ear reflectance model for the case of heterogeneous can- As previously noted, the effects of multiple scatter-
opies. In fact, when the LAI and the rest of plant struc- ing were most significant in TM4. In previous work
tural parameters are fixed, both formulations are very Garca-Haro found a much lower effect in the other TM
similar. However, the vegetation fraction (fv) as estimated bands, dominating thus the mutual shadowing by other
plants. However, although this shadowing effect causes a
by the inversion of the described model provides a more
notable reduction of reflectance (over 15%) for dispersed
straightforward interpretation, since it coincides with the
plants, this variation was not noticeable when LAI was
vegetation cover.
intermediate or high (i.e., LAI3). A detailed analysis
This study has been centered on the estimate of fv
can be found in Garca-Haro (1997).
and LAI of plants by means of a nonlinear fit of Eq. (14)
using simulated data. Nevertheless, at observing this ex-
pression, we can realize the difficulty to simultaneously INVERSION OF THE MODEL FOR
estimate fv and other canopy structural parameters such VEGETATED SCENES
as LAI, since these variables are not entirely indepen- Although the proposed model reproduces the reflectance
dent (Carlson and Ripley, 1997). For example, the reflec- of individual components, this does not necessarily en-
tance of a bare soil surface may be modeled assuming sure its invertibility in scenes composed by an arbitrary
either a surface of bare soil (fs1), or a surface fully cov- configuration of plants. In fact, we cannot expect to de-
ered by plants (fv1) characterized by LAI0. termine all the model parameters from a few measure-
ments of canopy reflectance in a small number of spec-
Influence of Neighboring Plants tral bands.
Multiple scattering between plants generally causes an The model is well suited to crop plants, where leaves
overall increase in reflectance values of plants and soil, dominate, soil reflectance is more uniform, topography
specially when plants are dense (Garca-Haro, 1997). is minimal, and most crows can be modeled with simple
This phenomenon has been previously noted in the liter- geometric shapes. Preliminary tests of the application of
ature (Huete, 1986; Roberts et al., 1990b; 1991; Borel the methodology to real Airborne Thematic Mapper
and Gerstl, 1994; Ray and Murray, 1996). However, (ATM) showed a close agreement between estimated
vegetation fraction and ground vegetation coverage in al-
neighboring plants not only produce an increase of mul-
mond parcels (Garca-Haro, 1997). Gilabert et al. (1998)
tiple scattering radiation incident on canopy elements,
also applied this method on real TM to monitor the spa-
but they might also intercept direct and skylight down-
tial distribution of vegetation patterns and assess the
ward radiation.
temporal changes of shrub communities in a semiarid
The interaction of photons with vegetation canopies environment. However, more validation work is neces-
in the vertical space and the intercanopy shading cause sary to demonstrate that this modeling approach allows
nonlinear mixing of vegetation. To gain an insight into for monitoring the spatial distribution of vegetation pat-
the complex nature of these processes, we have consid- terns more accurately than LSMM at a satellite scale. In
ered the configuration of plants shown in Figure 4A. It this section we have analyzed the feasibility of the model
consists of five plants situated in adjacent cells numbered inversion to assess canopy parameters in simulated
from 1 to 5. Code 6 corresponds to an isolated plant, scenes. Also, further improvements of the model are pro-
whose reflectance is used as a reference. We found that posed to reduce the error of estimated parameters by
in the NIR (TM4) plant reflectance varies significantly taking into account scattering and mutual shadowing be-
due to the presence of neighboring plants in a fashion tween neighboring plants.
which is highly dependent of plants structural character-
istics. This result can be observed in Figures 4B and 4C. Original Model
When LAI is intermediate or low (e.g., LAI3), the Given accurate knowledge of plants structural parame-
decrease in TM4 plant reflectance due to neighboring ters such as LAI, estimated fv values derived by the in-
338 Gilabert et al.

Figure 4. A) Location of plants coded from 1 to

5. Code 6 refers to an isolated plant. B) and C)
correspond to TM4 apparent reflectance of
plants coded from 1 to 6 (each situated in a con-
tiguous cell), for different plant structural pa-
rameters and values of their LAI: LAI1 (),
LAI3 (), LAI4 (), and LAI5 ().

version of the proposed model should coincide with the terize residuals, we computed the mean (l), standard
vegetation cover of plants presenting well-defined char- deviation (r) and RMS of the residuals as a function of
acteristics. Hence the reliability of the inversion out- the plant density. l is related to the bias of the fractions
comes may be assessed by comparing estimated fv against (i.e., its modulus represents the systematic error of the
actual vegetation cover of each pixel of simulated scenes. fractions), r represents its dispersion and the RMS rep-
Figure 5 shows the results corresponding to the two resents its overall error (systematic plus statistic). Figure
cases which showed the highest deviation between esti- 6 shows the values of l and r of fv residuals versus vege-
mated fv and vegetation cover. For the rest of the cases, tation cover, for the two cases of Figure 5. Positive bias
systematic error of fv was considerably lower. indicates that fv underestimates vegetation cover and
We can observe that though fv shows a good corre- vice versa.
spondence with vegetation cover, it is a biased estimator, We can observe that statistical errors are remarkably
especially when the density of plants is high. Logically small (typically under 0.01). Moreover, as opposed to sys-
the main source of fv error is the incorrect modeling of tematic errors, they are quite independent of plants
plant reflectance, while the inaccuracies of shaded soil structural parameters and show only a slight variation
reflectance introduced by neighboring plants affect with vegetation cover. On the contrary, systematic errors
mainly to fis and fss, but do not have significant influence are considerably greater, and thus practically coincide
on fv. The highest bias is found for plants with horizontal with the overall error. For example, fv is overestimated
leaves and b1 (Fig. 5A). In this case fv overestimates by over 0.10 for horizontal leaves and b1 when plants
vegetation cover, especially when plants are dense and are dense and vegetation cover is maximum. Otherwise,
vegetation fraction is maximum. This is attributable to fv is generally underestimated for spherical LAD and
the net increase in plant apparent reflectance in TM4, b0.4, particularly when plants are dispersed. Although
due to the multiple scattering radiation with neighboring we do not show the results for brevity, the systematic
plants, which is most significant when the LAI of plant and statistical errors of fv proved to be quite independent
is greater (see Fig. 4A). Otherwise, in the case of spheri- of the pixel size. Nevertheless, the systematic error was
cal LAD and b0.4 (Fig. 5B), a slight underestimate of slightly lower for smaller values of the pixel size, particu-
vegetation cover is observed, especially when the LAI of larly for plants with b1. This could be due to the in-
plant is low. It is mainly due to the dominance of the crease of spectral variability and the influence of neigh-
shadowing over multiple scattering effect, which is more boring pixels at increasing the spatial resolution.
evident when plants are dispersed (see Fig. 4B). These errors could be due to limitations of the
The residuals (mathematical difference between ac- model to address some nonlinear effects. In fact, the
tual and modeled fractional cover) let us evaluate numer- model neglects 1) side scattered light on sunlit soils, 2)
ically the reliability of the estimates. In order to charac- variations of canopy opacity with the wavelength, and 3)

Figure 5. Estimated fv versus vegetation cover, for

16-m-size pixels corresponding to scenes with differ-
ent plant densities and plant structural parameters.
LAI values code: LAI1 (), LAI3 (), and
LAI5 ().
A Mixture Modeling Approach To Estimate Vegetation Parameters 339

Figure 6. Values of bias (full symbols) and statistical

error (open symbols) of estimated fv versus vegetation
cover, for 16-m-size pixels corresponding to scenes
with LAI values of 1 (), 3 (), and 5 (). A)corre-
sponds to horizontal leaves and b1 and B to spheri-
cal LAD and b0.4.

soil brightness at 100% canopy closure. But the most sig- same cases considered in Figs. 5 and 6) were the fol-
nificant source of error could be due to interactions of lowing:
photons with vegetation components in vertical space, for
example, effects of neighboring plants and significant in- a. a0.5, b0.5, and e0.5 (for b1 and horizontal
tercanopy shading, which have a critical impact when the leaves).
cover types co-occur at high spatial density, as we pre- b. a0.02, b0.15, and e0.5 (for b0.4 and
viously noted (see Fig. 4). An attempt to model these spherical LAD).
highly nonlinear effects is made in the following sub- Figure 7 shows the error of derived fv in both cases.
section. It reveals a considerable reduction of systematic error of
fv as compared with Figure 6, especially for plants with
Model Corrected for Neighboring Plant Effects horizontal leaves and b1. For example, in both cases
We have attempted to address the influence of the non- this error is generally below 0.02. Otherwise, the statisti-
linear effects due to the interaction of canopies at high cal error is similarly low (typically under 0.01). These re-
spatial density, in order to minimize the systematic errors sults seem to indicate that systematic errors of fv are
of fv. To model intercanopy shadowing, the spectra of likely to be reduced in controlled circumstances. Never-
plants should vary due to the presence of neighboring theless, when dealing when real cases there might be a
plants (i.e., Rv varies with fv). Thus we have modified the great uncertainty in canopy architecture (e.g., in studies
model of plant reflectance [Eq. (2)] by introducing both at a regional scale), and, therefore, the procedure under-
a positive and a negative term, that is, taken to correct influences of neighboring plants could
v (k)Rv(k)[1aLAILbfvLAIL],
R(C) e e
(15) fail. A great deal of future work is necessary to refine
the correction model in order to adapt it to different nat-
where R(C)
v (k) is the plant reflectance considering the in-
ural ecosystems.
fluence of neighboring plants, and a, b, e are positive
constants connected with plant architecture. For exam- Influence of LAI Uncertainty
ple, a is related to the contribution of multiple scatter- Although the LAI of plants may be hypothesized from
ing, whereas b is related with the contribution of shad- the knowledge of the canopy (vegetation type, phenolo-
owing effect (which is assumed to be proportional to fv). gic status, etc.), this estimate could present certain inac-
A similar relationship (in this case with only a positive curacies. We have now undertaken a sensitivity analysis
term) could be used to account for the impact of side to show the degree to which this uncertainty in LAI may
light scattered on soil spectrum by neighboring plants. influence the derived values of fv. In this analysis we
LAI Is Perfectly Known have assumed a bias in the plants LAI of 30%. Unlike
Equation (15) adds three additional parameters to a the above example, this example provides a more exact
model that is already complex. Considering that the total idea of the uncertainty that can be found in a real satel-
number of unknowns have now exceeded the number of lite scene. Figure 8 shows the values obtained for the
TM bands, the ability to independently invert for each bias of fv.
of these parameters is questionable. Some a priori Naturally the underestimate of LAI caused an over-
knowledge is, therefore, necessary. We have now as- estimate of fv, and vice versa. This systematic error is
sumed an accurate knowledge of plants LAI. Since pa- more remarkable for dispersed plants, since in this case
rameters a, b, and e vary between plants with different soil contribution is higher and plant apparent reflectance
architecture, we have solved them for each case using is very sensitive to effective LAI of plants. The statistical
the minimization technique. The values of parameters a, error, not shown for conciseness, was quite independent
b, and e adopted for the two most problematic cases (the of the inaccuracy in LAI estimation.
340 Gilabert et al.

Figure 7. The same as Figure 6 but using the cor-

rected model (see text).

Simultaneous Estimation of fv and LAI larly high, the systematic error of fv was considerably re-
We have checked the feasibility of the model inversion duced (below 0.03 in all cases). Logically the results of
to assess together the LAI of plants and fv. We have first the model inversion depend on the amount of available
adopted the original reflectance model [Eq. (14)]. Re- information.
sults are only shown for the case of b0.4 and spherical In conclusion, the inversion of the proposed model
LAD (see Fig. 9), although LAI was underestimated in is limited to retrieval of two very correlated variables,
all cases. In general, this error was unacceptably high, LAI and fv, when the LAI of plants is elevated. This is
particularly for dense plants. due to the fact that those variations in LAI can be ex-
We can observe that, although derived LAI has a plained as resulting from a variation in fv, because the
significant systematic error, particularly in pixels with low former may partially take account of the latter. In this
vegetation cover, the error is considerably lower when case the numerical process is less robust, causing an un-
vegetation cover is intermediate or high. For example, derestimate of LAI, which is accompanied by an overes-
this error is acceptably small (i.e., under 0.2) when the timate of fv. Nevertheless, when plant architecture is
LAI of plants is intermediate or low (LAI3), although more vertical and the proportion of illuminated soil is re-
it increases significantly when plants are denser. The sta- duced, the ambiguity between LAI and fv diminishes, en-
tistical error of LAI, although notably smaller, shows a abling us to simultaneously estimate both parameters. To
similar tendency. meet the condition of poorly illuminated soil, fi should
Naturally the underestimate of LAI is enclosed by be small, for example, lower than 0.4. Otherwise, an ap-
an overestimate of fv, which is very noticeable (over 0.1) plication of different sub-models in a multiple configura-
for plants with horizontal leaves and b1, and relatively tion of architectures may convey information about the
small (typically about 0.05) for plants with vertical archi- type of canopy architecture.
tecture (Fig. 9B). This systematic error generally in-
creases with the vegetation cover of the pixel. We subse-
quently applied the corrected model [Eq. (15)] and FEASIBILITY OF LSMM DERIVED fv
found that though the systematic error of LAI was simi- A sensitivity analysis has been undertaken to analyze the
feasibility of LSMM to assess the vegetation fraction in
Figure 8. Values of bias (as derived from the corrected
heterogeneous scenes. LSMM has been applied to unmix
model) versus vegetation cover, for 16-m-size pixels corre- the same data sets considered in the above section (i.e.,
sponding to scenes with LAI values of 1 (), 3 (), and the multispectral images simulated using the radiosity
5 (). Plants are characterized by b0.4 and spherical model) in order to test the performance of a linear
LAD. A) LAI has been overestimated by 30%. B) LAI has model in presence of significant multiple scattering. This
been underestimated by 30%.
modeling frame has facilitated the interpretation of the
LSMM derived vegetation fraction values (which will be
also termed fv) by comparing them with actual vegetation
cover values, and analyze the influence of the endmem-
ber used to represent the vegetation component.
LSMM has been applied using three endmembers
corresponding to vegetation, soil, and shadow. The classi-
cal estimator constrained to the sum-to-1 condition has
been applied to estimate the fractions, since it provides
A Mixture Modeling Approach To Estimate Vegetation Parameters 341

Figure 9. Values of bias (full symbols) and statistical error

(open symbols) of fv and LAI versus vegetation cover, for Figure 10. Endmembers used in the LSMM
16-m-size pixels corresponding to scenes with LAI values of to represent the spectral signatures of
1 (), 3 (), and 5 (). Plants are characterized by and shadow () and four different vegetation spe-
spherical LAD. cies: simulated spectrum of isolated plant
with LAI5, b1, and horizontal leaves (),
simulated spectrum of isolated plant with
an unbiased solution (Settle and Drake, 1993; Garca- LAI5, b0.4, and spherical LAD (), mea-
sured spectrum of corn (), and measured
Haro et al., 1996). Alternatively, numerical procedures spectrum of Stipa ().
have been applied to constrain the fractions between 0
and 1 in the unrealistic cases of negative or superpositive
(100%) fractions. We have considered different images strated that a simple linear model results in an overesti-
corresponding to scenes with Quaternary soil and differ- mate of the vegetation fraction and an underestimate in
ent densities of plants characterized by spherical LAD, shadow content due to the effects of multiple NIR scat-
b1, and different LAI values. Different combinations tering. Also, Borel and Gerstl (1994) observed very large
of three endmembers have been considered, each pre- errors in fractional estimates. Nevertheless, in the second
senting a spectrum of the actual soil background, that is, case (B), corresponding to a corn endmember with high
Quaternary (see Fig. 1B) and a typical spectrum of photosynthetic activity and compact architecture (higher
shadow (see Fig. 10). To represent the vegetation end- NIR reflectance and low reflectance values in the visible
member, we have used both simulated spectra of dense bands), the bias is very small for plants with LAI5.
plants, that is, LAI5 and spectra of different vegetation In the cases C and D we have used a spectrum of
species acquired using field radiometry (see Fig. 10). Stipa to represent the vegetation endmember. In the
Figure 11 shows the errors of LSMM derived fv. The case C, actual fractional cover is overestimated, since the
first case (A) represents the case of a vegetation end- Stipa spectrum has lower NIR reflectance than the ac-
member with LAI5, applied to unmix scenes with a tual vegetation in the scene, especially for intermediate
range of LAI and fractional cover. The figure reveals a and dense plants. Nevertheless, in the case D estimated
considerable bias of fv, which generally tends to increase fv is considerably lower. This is mainly due to structural
at increasing vegetation cover. Naturally the lesser the parameters of the scene plants (spherical LAD and
LAI of plants, the lesser estimated fv. In general, we can b0.4) typical of more dispersed and vertical canopies,
observe a positive bias at LAI1, that is, when actual presenting lower NIR reflectance. Moreover, it is also
cover is higher than the model predicts. Thus vegetation due to the mutual shadowing between plants, which
cover is usually underestimated when the LAI of plants dominates for low and intermediate values of LAI, caus-
is small. For example, in case A when the vegetation ing a reduction of apparent plant reflectance, which is
endmember (LAI5) is applied to unmix plants with more relevant in the NIR (see Fig. 4B). Consequently,
LAI1 (symbol ), the model underpredicts fractional except for dense plants fv underestimates vegetation
cover by up to 25%, that is, the vegetation endmember cover.
has higher NIR reflectance than the actual vegetation in Identically, the bias of fv showed to be well related
the scene. A similar interpretation is possible for cases B with the mismatch between vegetation endmember and
and D. the reflectance spectra of scene plants. For example, for
Otherwise, at LAI5 (symbol ), estimated fv over- the scene plants considered in Figure 11D, the corn
estimates actual cover. In fact, even in case A, that is, endmember (typical of a vigorous canopy) produced the
when using a vegetation endmember which coincides highest underestimate of the vegetation fraction, reach-
with the reflectance spectrum of plants present in the ing up to 0.40. We can observe a bias even for pixels
scene, fv tends to overpredict actual fractional cover be- with an absence of vegetation, since shadowing effects of
cause the endmember does not incorporate the effects of plants on soil reflectance may not be modeled merely
multiple scattering from adjacent plants and soil. Similar from a linear combination of shadow and soil endmem-
results have been observed by other authors. For exam- bers. Otherwise, the statistical error of fv is generally low
ple, Roberts (1991) and Roberts et al. (1993) demon- (below 0.02), although it is significantly higher when us-
342 Gilabert et al.

Figure 11. Values of bias (full symbols) and statistical er-

ror (open symbols) of LSMM-derived fv versus vegeta-
tion cover, for 8-m-size pixels corresponding to scenes
with Quaternary soil. The density of plants is character-
ized by LAI values of 1 (), 3 (), and 5 (). Different
vegetation endmembers have been considered: A) plant
with a LAI5; B) corn; C and D) stipa. Cases A, B, and
C correspond to horizontal leaves and b1, while case
D corresponds to spherical LAD and b0.4.

ing the endmember of Stipa, probably due to its lower complex relationship to actual fractional cover has al-
contrast with the rest of endmembers. This error is ready recognized by several authors (Adams et al., 1993;
higher for intermediate and high values of plants LAI, Garca-Haro, 1997; Asner, 1998). For example, Adams et
when the spectral variability induced by the effect of al. (1993) use the term spectral fraction to distinguish
neighboring plants is higher. physical cover from modeled fractions which will vary
If we compare the results with those obtained using depending on canopy spectra, soil reflectance, etc. Nev-
the proposed model, in Figure 6A (for the original ertheless, this study also shows that the mismatch be-
model) or in Figure 7A (corrected model), we appreciate tween reflectance spectrum of plants and vegetation end-
that the values of fv as derived by the LSMM are more member produces a bias of fv that is almost proportional
biased estimates of vegetation cover than those derived to pixel vegetation cover. Therefore, a linear calibration
from the proposed model. In addition, LSMM outcomes based on ground measurements would provide an accu-
are more sensitive to variations in the spectrum of the rate estimate of vegetation cover. Moreover, since the
vegetation component (e.g., the LAI of target used to calibration lines are close to the origin, a single ground
represent the vegetation endmember). One additional measurement of vegetation cover might be sufficient to
difference is that LSMM usually requires the partitioning undertake a calibration for each different vegetation
of the estimating contribution of shade between the rest cover type. This result suggests the validity a process to
of components in order to retrieve the absolute abun- determine the reference endmembers incorporating such
dance of vegetation. For example, in closed forest cano- a calibration step (Adams et al., 1993). An improved
pies the multilayer structure is responsible for a high LSMM strategy that reduces errors due to vegetation
amount of shadow. Hence when using a unique end- community differences consists in using a multiple end-
member of vegetation, the relative contribution of member configuration, allowing endmembers to vary ac-
shaded vegetation should be assumed to be higher in for- cording to specific canopy characteristics (Garca-Haro et
est canopies than in many agricultural crops and grass- al., 1997; Roberts et al., 1998).
land areas. However, rather than viewed as a problem,
this high shade content also provides useful information
on canopy structure (Shimabukuro and Smith, 1991; Ad-
ams et al., 1997; Peddle et al., 1999). In this article, we have developed a reflectance model
As a result, estimating vegetation fraction (as derived which parametrizes the reflectance of vegetation cano-
by means of the LSMM) cannot be interpreted in a pies from the optical properties of leaves and soil, and
straightforward manner, but it is highly dependent of the the dominant canopy structural parameters. The model
spectral and biophysical properties of the vegetation end- assumes certain principles of geometric models, for ex-
member. For example, given a vegetation endmember, ample, that sensor integrates the radiance from materials
estimated fv varies with the LAI of scene plants up to (plant, shaded soil, and illuminated soil). The model is
0.30. The fact that the green vegetation fraction has a based on two relatively simplistic canopy geometric mod-
A Mixture Modeling Approach To Estimate Vegetation Parameters 343

els, neglects the effects of surface roughness and topog- ample, shade refers to shadow cast by objects as well as
raphy, and does not account for nonphotosynthetic com- shading by topography an illumination. Because this
ponents within the canopy. Also, the model neglects model does not include an explicit endmember from
somewhat the critical role of some effects such as the shade, it will incorrectly model the effects of changes in
soil brightness at 100% canopy closure, the side light surface slope, aspect, and the effects of surface roughness.
scattered on soil, and the spectral variations of canopy One important source of errors is due to the interac-
opacity. In addition to observable magnitudes (LAI, veg- tion of photons with vegetation components in vertical
etation fraction (fv), etc.), the model uses magnitudes space and significant intercanopy shading, effects which
which are directly related to canopy characteristics, such have a critical impact when the cover types co-occur at
as leaves opacity or reflectance of saturation. The model high spatial density. A great deal of future research is
presented here was inverted for retrieving canopy pa- required to incorporate these effects. Otherwise, the
rameterssuch as LAI, fv, and average leaves inclina- model appears to be well suited to crop plants, where
tionusing multispectral data (corresponding to the six leaves are dominant, soil reflectance is more uniform, to-
optical TM channels) simulated from a radiosity-based pography is minimal, and most crowns can be modeled
model (Garca-Haro et al., 1999). with simple geometric shapes. However, natural variation
It was found that errors in one biophysical compo- in soil reflectance, rugged topography, complex canopy
nent, such as LAI, translates into other key parameter, geometry, variable leaf and soil optical properties, and
such as fv. While potentially a weakness, the model pro- unmodeled NPV will surely complicate the problem.
vides a tool for assessing potential errors in remote sens- Other complications are due to the large number of un-
ing estimates of plant cover and LAI under a variety of knowns to deal with (A, B, C, j, etc.), which can vary
conditions. For example, it was found that both parame- both between plants and within a pixel.
ters may be simultaneously estimated when plants archi- In order to mitigate these errors, we would propose
tecture is more vertical and the proportion of illuminated the application of different submodels in a multiple con-
soil reduces, since in this case the ambiguity between LAI figuration of model parameters (e.g., including different
and fv diminishes. Otherwise, sensitivity analysis of the soils spectra and/or several submodels for plant architec-
model suggests that the bias in the linear spectral mixture tures). The selection of the optimum configuration of
modeling (LSMM) estimate of fv can be reduced signifi- model parameters for each scene pixel may be under-
cantly using as few as one ground measurement, offering taken by means of an expert system that could incorpo-
the potential of correcting errors in remote sensing esti- rates as a criterion parameters such as the modeling er-
mates through the strategic use of limited ground data. rors (e.g., RMS) of the different submodels.
It is generally possible to fix the value of LAI, for Concluding, the proposed approach provides composi-
example, from a priori knowledge of scene plants. In this tional information of the ground surface that is linked with
case, assuming also known plants structural parameters, the interpretation of the LSMM and seems to be a suit-
the estimate of fv constitutes an unmixing approach simi- able remote sensing tool to study heterogeneous canopies.
lar to the LSMM, but it presents some advantages. For
example, the proposed model takes into account pro- This work has been supported by the MEDALUS III Project
cesses of shadowing, transmission, and multiple scatter- funded by the European Communities (ENV4-CT95-0119) and
ing of radiation within the crown enclosure. Hence, un- by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Spain (CICYT,
like in the LSMM, the estimated fraction of shadow does AMB97-1000-C02-02). Special thanks are due to the anony-
mous reviewers for their extremely helpful suggestion and in-
not need to be redistributed between vegetation and soil, valuable comments.
since plant reflectance itself takes into account shadow-
ing effects connected with plant multilayer structure.
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