Synthetic aperture radar (L band) and optical vegetation indices for discriminating the Brazilian savanna physiognomies: A comparative analysis

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Earth Interactions, 2005, 9 (15)
Issue Date:
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The all-weather capability, signal independence to the solar illumination angle, and response to 3D vegetation structures are the highlights of active radar systems for natural vegetation mapping and monitoring. However, they may present significant soil background effects. This study addresses a comparative analysis of the performance of L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data and optical vegetation indices (VIs) for discriminating the Brazilian cerrado physiognomies. The study area was the Brasilia National Park, Brazil, one of the test sites of the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere (LBA) experiment in Amazonia. Seasonal Japanese Earth Resources Satellite-1 (JERS-1) SAR backscatter coefficients (σ°) were compared with two vegetation indices [normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and enhanced vegetation index (EVI)] over the five most dominant cerrados' physiognomies plus gallery forest. In contrast to the VIs, σ° from dry and wet seasons did not change significantly, indicating primary response to vegetation structures. Discriminant analysis and analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed an overall higher performance of radar data. However, when both SAR and VIs are combined, the discrimination capability increased significantly, indicating that the fusion of the optical and radar backscatter observations provides overall improved classifications of the cerrado types. In addition, VIs showed good performance for monitoring the cerrado dynamics.
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