Estimating winter annual biomass in the sonoran and mojave deserts with satellite- and ground-based observations

Grant M. Casady, Willem J.D. Van Leeuwen, Bradley C. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Winter annual plants in southwestern North America influence fire regimes, provide forage, and help prevent erosion. Exotic annuals may also threaten native species. Monitoring winter annuals is difficult because of their ephemeral nature, making the development of a satellite monitoring tool valuable. We mapped winter annual aboveground biomass in the Desert Southwest from satellite observations, evaluating 18 algorithms using time-series vegetation indices (VI). Field-based biomass estimates were used to calibrate and evaluate each algorithm. Winter annual biomass was best estimated by calculating a base VI across the period of record and subtracting it from the peak VI for each winter season (R2 = 0.92). The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) derived from 8-day reflectance data provided the best estimate of winter annual biomass. It is important to account for the timing of peak vegetation when relating field-based estimates to satellite VI data, since post-peak field estimates may indicate senescent biomass which is inaccurately represented by VI-based estimates. Images generated from the best-performing algorithm show both spatial and temporal variation in winter annual biomass. Efforts to manage this variable resource would be enhanced by a tool that allows the monitoring of changes in winter annual resources over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)909-926
Number of pages18
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Invasive species
  • Monitoring
  • NDVI
  • Vegetation index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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