A comparison of vegetation indices over a global set of TM images for EOS-MODIS

A. R. Huete, H. Q. Liu, K. Batchily, W. Van Leeuwen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1412 Scopus citations


A set of Landsat Thematic Mapper images representing a wide range of vegetation conditions from the NASA Landsat Pathfinder, global land cover test site (GLCTS) initiative were processed to simulate the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), global vegetation index imagery at 250 m pixel size resolution. The sites included boreal forest, temperature coniferous forest, temperate deciduous forest, tropical rainforest, grassland, savanna, and desert biomes. Differences and similarities in sensitivity to vegetation conditions were compared among various spectral vegetation indices (VIs). All VIs showed a qualitative relationship to variations in vegetation. However, there were significant differences among the VIs over desert, grassland, and forested biomes. The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was sensitive to and responded primarily to the highly absorbing red reflectance band, while other indices such as the soil and atmosphere resistant vegetation index (SARVI) were more responsive to variations in the near-infrared (NIR) band. As a result, we found the NDVI to mimic red reflectances and saturate over the forested sites while the SARVI, by contrast, did not saturate and followed variations in NIR reflectances. In the arid and semiarid biomes, the NDVI was much more sensitive to canopy background variations than the SARVI. Maximum differences among vegetation index behavior occurred over the evergreen needleleaf forest sites relative to the deciduous broadleaf forests and drier, grassland, and shrub sites. These differences appear to be useful in complementing the NDVI for improved monitoring of vegetation, with the NDVI sensitive to fraction of absorbed photosynthetic active radiation and the SARVI more sensitive to structural canopy parameters such as leaf area index and leaf morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-451
Number of pages12
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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