Leaf area index mapping in northern Canada

Abdelgadir A. Abuelgasim, Sylvain G. Leblanc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Leaf area index (LAI) is an important structural vegetation parameter that is commonly derived from remotely sensed data. It has been used as a reliable indicator for vegetation's cover, status, health and productivity. In the past two decades, various Canada-wide LAI maps have been generated by the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS). These products have been produced using a variety of very coarse satellite data such as those from SPOT VGT and NOAA AVHRR satellite data. However, in these LAI products, the mapping of the Canadian northern vegetation has not been performed with field LAI measurements due in large part to scarce in situ measurements over northern biomes. The coarse resolution maps have been extensively used in Canada, but finer resolution LAI maps are needed over the northern Canadian ecozones, in particular for studying caribou habitats and feeding grounds. In this study, a new LAI algorithm was developed with particular emphasis over northern Canada using a much finer resolution of remotely sensed data and in situ measurements collected over a wide range of northern arctic vegetation. A statistical relationship was developed between the in situ LAI measurements collected over vegetation plots in northern Canada and their corresponding pixel spectral information from Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) data. Furthermore, all Landsat TM and ETM+ data have been pre-normalized to NOAA AVHRR and SPOT VGT data from the growing season of 2005 to reduce any seasonal or temporal variations. Various spectral vegetation indices developed from the Landsat TM and ETM+ data were analysed in this study. The reduced simple ratio index (RSR) was found to be the most robust and an accurate estimator of LAI for northern arctic vegetation. An exponential relationship developed using the Theil-Sen regression technique showed an R2 of 0.51 between field LAI measurement and the RSR. The developed statistical relationship was applied to a pre-existing Landsat TM 250 m resolution mosaic for northern Canada to produce the final LAI map for northern Canada ecological zones. Furthermore, the 250 m resolution LAI estimates, per ecological zone, were almost generally lower than those of the CCRS Canada-wide VGT LAI maps for the same ecozones. Validation of the map with LAI field data from the 2008 season, not used in the derivation of the algorithm, shows strong agreement between the in situ LAI measurement values and the map-estimated LAI values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5059-5076
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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