Evaluation of national and global LAI products derived from optical remote sensing instruments over Canada

Abdelgadir A. Abuelgasim, Richard A. Fernandas, Sylvain G. Leblanc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Leaf area index (LAI) is an important surface variable for monitoring the status of vegetation and as input in a number of ecosystem process models. There are currently several coarse-resolution LAI maps over Canada, including a Canada Centre for Remote Sensing ten-day, 1-km resolution, Canada-wide product based on SPOT-4 VEGETATION (VGT), a MODIS eight-day, 1-km resolution, global product and a monthly, 7-km resolution, global map produced using POLDER-1. These products are difficult to validate because of their large spatial extent and coarse resolution. In this study we use in situ LAI measurements collected over a wide range of forest types and ecological zones in Canada to derive 30-m resolution reference LAI maps based on robust error-in-measurement regressions to Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus vegetation indices. The reference maps and LAI products were aggregated to a coarser resolution (3 km for MODIS and VGT and 7 km for POLDER) before comparison to account for registration errors, and variability in sensor projected point spread functions. Spatially corresponding aggregated pixels with both high-quality reference and coarse scale LAI retrievals were compared. The comparison shows reasonable agreement (biases less than 25% or one LAI) between the VGT and reference LAI. The MODIS LAI product showed weak correlations (R2 < 0.25) over all sites at the scale of comparison and typically overestimated reference LAI in mixed forests by approximately 200%. The POLDER LAI product, only available in June 1997, showed almost no correlation to the summer reference LAI datasets. It underestimated reference LAI for an early growing season with an extent, in some cases, greater than the seasonal differences in LAI. This independent validation of three large area LAI products suggests that there may be substantial biases due to the lack of regional tuning of retrieval algorithms. These biases are far larger than the uncertainties in the reference-based LAI scenes in the case of the MODIS product. This suggests that reliable LAI maps may require regional calibration to meet the Global Terrestrial Observing System mapping requirements of ±15% uncertainties.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1645287
Pages (from-to)1872-1883
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • In situ measurements
  • Leaf area index (LAI)
  • Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS)
  • Polarization and Directionality of the Earth's Reflectance (POLDER)
  • Systeme Pour l'Observation de la terre (SPOT) VEGETATION (VGT)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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