Analysis of cerrado physiognomies and conversion in the MODIS seasonal-temporal domain

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Journal Article
Earth Interactions, 2005, 9 (3)
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The "cerrado" biome in central Brazil is rapidly being converted into pasture and agricultural crops with important consequences for local and regional climate change and regional carbon fluxes between the atmosphere and land surface. Satellite remote sensing provides an opportunity to monitor the highly diverse and complex cerrado biome, encompassing grassland, shrubland, woodland and gallery forests, and converted areas. In this study, the potential of Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data is analyzed to discriminate among these diverse cerrado physiognomies and converted pastures based on their seasonal dynamics and phenology. Four years (2000-03) of MODIS 16-day composited, 250-m resolution vegetation index (VI) data were extracted over a series of biophysically sampled field study sites representing the major cerrado types. The temporal VI profiles over the cerrado formations exhibited high seasonal contrasts with a pronounced dry season from June to August and a wet growing season from November to March. The converted pasture areas showed the highest seasonal contrasts while the gallery forest formation had the lowest contrast. Seasonal VI variations were negatively correlated with woody canopy crown cover and provided a method to discriminate among converted cerrado areas, gallery forests, and the woody and herbaceous cerrado formations. The grassland and shrub cerrado formations, however, were difficult to separate based on their seasonal VI profiles. Maximum discrimination among the cerrado types occurred during the dry season where a positive linear relationship was found between VI and green cover. The annual integrated VI values showed the gallery forests and cerrado woodland as having the highest, and hence most annual productivity, while the more herbaceous shrub and grassland cerrado types were least productive. The cumulative VI profiles of converted cerrado, pasture areas varied distinctly in shape due to their strong dry season inactivity. Furthermore, the annual integrated VI values of the converted pastures differed significantly between the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and the enhanced vegetation index (EVI) MODIS VI products, resulting in large discrepancies in productivity estimates relative to the native cerrado sites. This study shows that the MODIS seasonal-temporal VI profiles are highly useful in monitoring the cerrado biome and conversion-related activities.
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