Seasonal reflectance trends of hemiboreal birch forests

Miina Rautiainen*, Tiit Nilson, Tõnu Lükk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


MODIS, AVHRR and SPOT VEGETATION satellite images have recently been used to track coarse scale seasonal vegetation dynamics of boreal and temperate forests. However, the understanding of driving factors of reflectance seasonality at forest stand level is still in its infancy, and has only preliminarily been linked to, for example, forest structure or site fertility. We present results from a study on the seasonal reflectance trends of 145 hemiboreal birch stands in Estonia from budburst to initial senescence. A time series comprising 32 high resolution Landsat ETM+, TM and SPOT HRVIR, HRV images from April to September was assembled for analyzing empirical reflectance courses of birch stands. The most noteworthy seasonal reflectance dynamics were observed in the red and NIR channels, changes in the green and SWIR spectral channels were relatively small. The most stable period in stand reflectance in all the spectral channels occurred in midsummer i.e. when stand leaf area index (LAI) reached its highest level and changes in solar angle were the smallest. A twenty-day difference was observed between the reflectance development of birch stands growing on infertile and fertile sites. Next, to provide an explanation for the observed reflectance changes, we simulated the mean seasonal reflectance trajectories of the study stands at 10 day intervals for the same period using a radiative transfer model (FRT). Simulated seasonal reflectance courses for the different site fertility classes followed the general pattern of the measured courses. Simulation results indicated that the main driving factors for reflectance seasonality for all the site fertility classes in the red and green bands were stand LAI and leaf chlorophyll content, in the NIR band stand LAI, and in the SWIR band LAI and general water content. Finally, we discuss current limitations related to applying forest radiative transfer models in investigating the driving factors of seasonal reflectance changes in the boreal zone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-815
Number of pages11
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2009
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Betula
  • forest reflectance model
  • Landsat
  • Phenology
  • SPOT

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