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35:161-173 (1991)

Potentials and Limits of Vegetation Indices for

LAI and APAR Assessment
F. Baret and G. Guyot
INRA Bioclimatologie, MonOCavet, France

M o s t vegetation indices (VI) combine informa- tions has been paramount in many agriculture-
tion contained in two spectral bands': red and applied studies in recent years. To minimize the
near-infrared. These indices are established in or- variability due to external t~actors, multispectral
der to minimize the effect of external factors on reflectance data have been transformed and com-
spectral data and to derive canopy characteristics bined into various vegetation indices. The most
such as leaf area index (LAI) and fraction of ab- commonly used vegetation indices utilize the in-
sorbed photosynthetic active radiation (P). The po- formation contained in red and near-infrared
tentials' and limits of different vegetation indices canopy reflectances or radiances. They are com-
are discussed in this paper using the normalized bined in the form of ratios: ratio vegetation index
difference (NDVI), perpendicular vegetation index (RVI) (Pearson and Miller, 1972) or normalized
(PVI), soil adjusted vegetation index (SAW), and difference (NDVI) (Rouse et al., 1974), or in linear
transformed soil adjusted vegetation index (TSA VI). combinations as the perpendicular vegetation in-
The discussion is based on a sensitivity analysis in dex (PVI) (Richardson and Wiegand, 1977). These
which the effect of canopy geometry (LAI and leaf indices have been found to be well correlated with
inclination) and soil background are analyzed. The various vegetation variables including green
calculation is performed on data derived from the leaf area (Wiegand et al., 1974; Holben et al.,
SAIL reflectance model. General semiempirical 1980; Asrar et al., 1984, 1985b; Hatfield et al.,
models, describing the relations between VI and 1985; Clevers, 1989), standing biomass (Tucker,
LAI or P, are elaborated and used to derive the 1979; Elvidge and Lyon, 1985), percent ground
relative equivalent noise (REN) for the determina- cover, amount of photosynthetically active tissue
tion of LAI and P. The performances of VIs are (Wiegand et al.), photosynthetic activity (Baret
discussed on the basis of the REN concept. and Olioso, 1989; Choudhury, 1987; Hatfield et al.,
1984; Sellers, 1985; 1987), and productivity (Asrar
INTRODUCTION et al., 1985a).
The green leaf area index (LAI) is a key
The development of fimctional relations between variable which is functionally linked to spectral
crop characteristics and remote spectral observa- reflectance. Leaf area index is also a variable which
is frequently used by agronomists, crop physiolo-
gists, and crop modelers. A large number of rela-
Address correspondence to F. Baret, INRA Bioclimatologie, BP
tionships have been established between vegeta-
91, 84143 Montfavet Cedex, France.
Received June 1990; revised 12 November 1990. tion indices and LAI. Generally the vegetation
0034-4257/91 / $3.50
©Elsevier Science Publishing Co. Inc., 1991
655 Aw~nue q[ the Americas, New York, NY 10010 161
162 Baret and Guyot

indices approach a saturation level asymptotically Table i. Parameters Used for the Calculation of the Differ-
ent Vegetation Indices. a
for LAI ranging from 2 to 6, depending on the
type of vegetation index used, the crop studied, Sun zenith angle: 45 °
View angle: nadir viewing
and experimental conditions (Wanjura and Canopy geometry:
Hatfield, 1987; Daughtry et al., 1980; Chance, - - l e a f angle distribution function: ellipsoidal
1981; Ahlrichs and Bauer, 1983; Best and Harlan, - - a v e r a g e leaf angle: 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 °
1985). Most vegetation indices are dependent on I L A I : 0.10, 0.20, 0.40, 0.80, 1.60, 3.20, 6.40, 12.80

internal factors such as canopy geometry, leaf and Spectral Domain

soil optical properties, or external factors such as 650 nm (r) 850 nm (nir) PAR
sun position and nebulosity to provide good esti- Leaf reflectance 0.05 0.465 0.10
mates of LAI. Leaf transmittance 0.02 0.490 0.05
The sensitivity of vegetation indices to canopy Soil reflectance: 0.05, 0.10, 0.15, 0.20, 0.25, 0.30, 0.35
geometry (leaf angle distribution function, row (650 nm)
orientation, and spacing) has been shown by ~The canopy reflectance is calculated with the SAIL model
Chance (1981), Kollenkark et al. (1982), Aase et al. (Verhoef, 1984). The leaf angle distribution function is assumed to be
ellipsoidal (Campbell, 1986; Wang and Jarvis, 1988). It is character-
(1984), Jackson et al. (1979), and Jackson (1986) ized by its average leaf angle (ALA) defined by the zenith angle of
among others. Vegetation indices are also sensitive the normal to the leaf surface.
The near-infrared reflectance of the soil is calculated with the
to soil optical properties as shown by Kanemasu soil line equation: nirg = 1.20rg +0.04. The slope and the intercept
(1974), Vanderbilt et al. (1981), Huete et al. (1985), correspond to the median values of soil line data of the literature
(Baret et al., 1989b). Lower reflectance corresponds to dark and wet
Huete (1987a), and Huete and Jackson (1987). soil and highest reflectance to that of a dry bright sand. The leaf
They are also affected by the sun position (Asrar optical properties correspond to a leaf with a chlorophyll a and b
et al., 1985b; Brach et al., 1981; Huete, 1987b; concentration of 50 /zg em -e and a structure parameter N = 1.5
which corresponds to most of plant leaves (Jacquemoud and Baret,
Shibayama et al., 1986) and the cloudiness (Holben 1990).
et al., 1986; Jackson et al., 1983). These results
suggest caution in using vegetation indices to esti-
mate LAI if the effects of these different factors METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH
are not known.
Model Simulation
Agronomists, among others, are interested in
photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) absorbed The SAIL model (Verhoef, 1984; 1985) has been
by vegetation. The fraction absorbed PAR by the used in this study to simulate and to analyze the
canopy (P) can be linked experimentally to re- sensitivity of different vegetation indices to the
flectance data (Daughtry et al., 1983; Gallo et al., canopy and soil parameters: soil reflectance, leaf
1985; Hatfield et al., 1984; W i e g a n d and optical properties, leaf inclination, leaf area index,
Richardson, 1984) as has subsequently been shown and so on (Table 1). This relatively simple model
theoretically by Sellers (1985; 1987) and gives a realistic and accurate estimate of the bidi-
Choudhury (1987), among others. Remotely sensed rectional reflectance of homogeneous crop
P gives a more mechanistic and reliable way for canopies. It has been partially validated by differ-
assessing crop biomass than LAI because the pho- ent authors (Badhwar et al., 1985; Goel and
tosynthetic apparatus of a crop transforms the Deering, 1985). In this study reflectances have
absorbed PAR energy into dry matter and the sum been simulated in red (r) and near-infrared (nir)
of absorbed PAR over time is a good estimator of for the calculation of vegetation indices. All of the
crop primary production (Wanjura and Hatfield, possible combinations [9 (average leaf inclinations)
1985; Weiser et al., 1986; Baret et al., 1989a). But x 8 (LAI)×7 (soil reflectance)= 504 combina-
the relationship between vegetation indices and tions] of variables, incremented two at a time,
APAR also depends on those factors which affect were computed.
the relationships between vegetation indices and
LAI. For this reason we shall examine the poten-
tials and the limits of the different vegetation Vegetation Indices Used in This Study
indices for assessing LAI and absorbed PAR by The most commonly used vegetation indices are
considering the effects of different factors. RVI and NDVI cited earlier. They combine red (r)
Vegetation Indices for LAI and APAR Assessment 163

% J * " @ ~ ~ "l,Z,, ."/ d' qP IP

°'l' tJr.# L /,'/.. //...,,

.f "fir ,&///

I,'J.,' Y , /
/ . ,,

• O. l ~ / ~ ~ PVI

0 O.l 0.2 0.3 0.4 O.Z 0.3 0.4


Jli "iP ¢ / / //..

/,: o/ .

lit °
0 t~ --SAVI 1 TSAV1

°o o., o.~ o.~ o,, °o oi~ o'.~ o'.~ o,,

Figure 1. Graphical representation of different vegetation indices. The dashed lines correspond to canopies with different
soil backgrounds and the same LAI. The line, for which LAI = 0, is the soil line. The open circles correspond to the canopy
reflectance simulated with SAIL model using input data from Table 1 and the median value of ALA. The continuous lines
are the lines along which the different vegetation indices are constant. These indices are determined for each LAI and for
the median value of soil reflectance (0.20 in red).

and near-infrared (nir) reflectances or radiances. optical properties of soil background. For a given
RVI = r / n i r amount of vegetation, darker soil substrates result
in higher vegetation index values (Elvidge and
(Pearson and Miller, 1972), (1)
Lyon, 1985; Huete et al., 1985) (Fig. 1). To mini-
NDVI = ( n i r - r) / (nir + r) mize the effect of the soil background, Richardson
(Rouse et al., 1974), (2) and Wiegand (1977) have proposed the perpendic-
ular vegetation index (PVI). It represents the or-
NDVI = (RVI - 1 ) / ( R V I + 1). (3)
thogonal distance from a point corresponding to
These indices enhance the contrast between soil canopy reflectance to the soil line, in red-near-
and vegetation but minimize the effects of illumi- infrared space (Fig. 1). For a given soil, the red
nation conditions. However, they are sensitive to (rn) and near-infrared (nir~) reflectances are re-
164 Baret and Guyot

lated by the equation of the soil line: will not be used in the comparison of the different
nir,. = a ' r ~ + b. (4) The soil adjusted vegetation index (SAVI) pro-
posed by Huete (1988) is derived from the NDVI:
The parameters a and b vary slightly among soils
(Huete et al., 1984). Findings on soil line parame- SAVI = ( n i r - r ) / ( n i r + r + L)(1 + L). (8)
ters determined in different locations confirms this The constant L is introduced in order to minimize
assertion, and shows that these parameters are not soil-brightness influences and to produce vegeta-
independent and that they can be related by a tion isolines more independent of the soil back-
second-order polynomial (Baret et al., 1989b). ground (Fig. 1). It can vary from zero to infinity as
Moreover, as shown by Baret (1986), the soil line a function of the canopy density. If L = 0, SAVI is
concept is also valid for senescent vegetation, equivalent to NDVI and if L tends towards infin-
which represents the real background of the active ity, it is equivalent to PVI (the vegetation isolines
green vegetation layer during a significant portion are parallel). For vegetation with intermediate
of the growth cycle. density the best adjustment is obtained for L = 0.5.
It is possible to express PVI as a linear combi- SAVI is an exact solution fi)r bare soil only when
nation of nir, and r,.: the soil line parameters are a = 1 and b = 0. This
is not generally the case. As it is important, for a
P V I - ~ / e +- - l (nir - a ' r - b). (5) vegetation index, to be error-free for plant canopies
with very low densities, Baret et al. (1989b) pro-
posed the transformed soil adjusted vegetation
Experimental and theoretical investigations show index (TSAVI). This index is a measure of the
that PVI is also affected by the optical properties angle between the soil line and the line which
of soil background: brighter soils result in higher joins the vegetation point and a point (S) behmg-
index values for a given quantity of incomplete ing to the soil line, the abscissa of which is - X
vegetation cover as shown in Figure 1 (Huete (Fig. 1). The following equation is an improved
et al., 1985; Huete, 1988; Major et al., 1990). The version of the initial definition given by Baret
points corresponding to the same canopy do not et al. (1989b):
migrate along lines parallel to the soil line when
the soil brightness is changing. For this reason TSAVI = a ' ( n i r - a ' r - b)
some new indices, which are less influenced by
the soil brightness have been proposed (Huete, /[.'nir+r-.h+ X'(1+.2)], (9)
1988; 1989; Clevers, 1986; 1988; 1989; Baret et al.,
19891); Major et al., 1990). The simplest is pro- where a and b are the parameters of the soil line
posed by Clevers (1986; 1989), who introduced and X corresponds to the negative abscissa of the
the weighted difference vegetation index (WDVI), point S. The value of X has been adjusted to
which is similar to the greenness index of Kauth minimize soil effects (X = 0.08). TSAVI is multi-
and Thomas (1976) fin" the two-dimensional case plied by the parameter a to give a vegetation
(red-near-infrared space): index less dependent on soil parameters (a, b) for
high canopy density (nir >> r). TSAVI equals 0 for
WDVI = n i r - a ' r . bare soil and is close to 0.70 fi)r very dense
canopies. For a = 1 and b = 0, TSAVI is equiva-
This index can also be related to the PVI by lent to N DVI.
combining Eqs. (5) and (6): Tile indices discussed here can be classified
into two categories:
PVI - -~ - ( W D V I - b). (7)
--indices characterized by a slope: RV1,
The information given by WDVI is not different --indices characterized by a distance: PVI,
from that given by PVI. For this reason this index WDVI, GVI;
Vegetation Indices for LAI and APAR Assessment 165

0.4 0.8 SAVI and TSAVI are closely related as shown in

(b l i~ f Figure 2b.
0.3 0.6
0.2 0.4
:i/?i:!:il - .~~.
~,~:~:': 5 .
0 0
0 0.5 1 0 0.5

NDVI SAVI General Semiempirical Model Relating

Vegetation Indices and LAI
0.8 O.S
(c) ..z .:t (d) ',~:,S Many studies have shown that vegetation indices
0.6 0.6 .,R..
reach a saturation level with increasing LAI values
0.4. 0.4
,f;"' and can be fitted to an exponential equation: NDVI
(Hatfield et al., 1985; Baret and Olioso, 1989), PVI
0.2 ,~:¢ 5 . > 0,2
(Wiegand and Hatfield, 1988; Clevers, 1989,
0 through WDVI (see Eq. 7)), and TSAVI (Baret
0 0.5 0.2 0.4

NDVI PVI et al., 1989). The variation of a vegetation index

(VI), as a function of LAI, can be expressed by a
0.8 0.8, modified Beer's law:
0.6 .~'~. -
•...~, .. VI = V I ~ + (VIg - V I ~ ) ' e x p ( - K v , ' L A I ) , (10)
:=.,: ; .
<: 0.4 :i :.::i :' 0.4 L,~ ~!::!7;i[i::
0.2 o.= ,,:':7!:i:!I....

VI~ = vegetation index corresponding to
0 0 ' L
0 0.5 0 0,2 0.4 that of the bare soil,
NDVI PVl Vim = asymptotic value of VI when
Figure 2. Graphical determination of the mutual depen- LAI tends towards infinity (practically
dency of NDVI, PVI, SAVI, and TSAVI. Each data point this limit is always reached for LAI
corresponds to a VI value calculated for the canopy re-
flectance (simulated with SAIL with input variables front greater than 8.0),
Table 1). The Vls are expressed in decimal fractions. Kvl = eoeffleient which controls the slope
of the relationship (equivalent to an
extinction coefficient).
Four of them, that is, NDVI, PVI, SAVI, and The Kvj parameter represents the relative in-
TSAVI, are really not fnnctionally equivalent, al- crease in VI due to an elementary increase in LAI.
though, for certain values of the soil line and of It is called extinction coefficient by analogy to the
the parameters L and X, SAVI and TSAVI can classical Beer's law where the extinction (or ab-
also be considered as distance vegetation indices. sorption) eoeMeient describes the relative varia-
To test the mutual independence of these four VIs, tion of a diffuse mediunfs transmission when its
they were calculated from the same data set (Ta- thickness is submitted to an elementary increase.
ble 1). All possible pairs of VIs (six combinations) In the same way, the product Kvl. LAI is analog
were plotted (Fig. 2). Figures 2a, 2c, and 2e show to an optical thickness.
that PVI, SAVI, and TSAVI individually differ in The parameters VI~ and Kvl depend on irra-
concept and contain different information than diance and view geometries and on leaf inclina-
NDVI, while Figure 2b shows that TSAVI and tion. In this analysis the sun zenith angle and the
SAVI are closely correlated. For this reason we viewing geometries are fixed.
compare SAVI and TSAVI with NDVI in Figures We have used, for each set of leaf inclinations
2c and 2e and with PVI in Figures 2d and 2£ (average leaf inclination ALA), nonlinear fitting
Figures 2c and 2d show that SAVI and PVI give techniques ( N e l d e r - M e a d simplex algorithm) to
similar information. TSAVI is not closely related to obtain Kvx(ALA) and VI=(ALA) for data simulated
NDVI and PVI (Figures 2e and 2f). Nevertheless, with SAIL model. VIg was taken as the average
166 Baret and Guyot

Table 2. Average Value of Vlg Calculated with Data of is not strongly affected by the leaf inclination:
Table 1
PVI~ and SAVI~ decrease slightly with the leaf
VI VI~ StandardDeviation inclination, whereas NDVI~ increases and TSAVI~
NDVI 0.193 0.0646 remains practically constant. The computed values
PVI 0.000 0.0000 of K vi and VI~ are in good agreement with exper-
SAVI 0.122 0.0229
TSAVI 0.000 0,0000 imental results obtained on wheat (Asrar et al.,
1984), maize, and soybean (Baret, 1990).
VIs computed with the simplified model
value (Table 2) calculated from the input data (equation 11) are compared to those computed
displayed in Table 1. The resulting values of Kvi with SAIL model in Figure 4. In the simplified
and VI= are presented on Figure 3. This figure model the adjusted values of KvI(ALA) and
shows that K w decreases when ALA increases. VI~(ALA) are used. For VIg fixed, the indices,
The curves corresponding to the different vegeta- which are significantly affected by the soil back-
tion indices have, practically, the same shape. VI~ ground, present a larger scattering than the in-

Figure 3. Variation of the extinction coefficient (Kvl) and of the infinite value of vegetation
index (VI~) as a function of the average leaf inclination (ALA).

1.6 l
0.8 SAVI
1 Z 0.6

0.8 ...........................................
0.4 PVI
Z 0.6
t~ 0.4 0.2 t i ,i

30 40 50 60 70 30 40 50 60 70


( a ) ~ 0.3

0.5 s_


0 0,5 0 0.2 0.4


M Figure 4. Comparison of VI data
0.5 0.5 calculated with SAIL model and
with simplified model (dots). The
solid line is the first bisector. As VI~
has a constant value in the simpli-
fled model, the scattering of the
0 0 i
points expresses the effect of the soil
0 0.5 1 0 0.5 1 background on the considered in-
Vegetation Indices for LAI and APAR Assessment 167

Table 3. VI RMS D e t e r m i n e d with Simplified Model as which is mainly determined by species and phe-
Compared to SAIL Simulations.
nology, is often available. For this reason we shall
vl RMS RMS / (VI=- VI~)~ first analyze the sensitivity to soil background for a
NDVI 0.0570 0.0738 given ALA and then evaluate the global sensitivity
PV1 0.0187 0.0548 to both soil background and ALA.
SAVI 0.0204 0.0315
TSAVI 0.0101 0.0141
Equation (11) shows that RENLAI is the largest
when the slope of the relation between LAI and
~The third column gives the normalized RMS.
VI is the smallest. For this reason the uncertainty
on LAI is maximum when the asymptotic level is
dices which introduce corrections of the back- reached.
ground effect. For this reason Figures 4a and 4b,
corresponding to NDVI and PVI, display larger Sensitivity to Soil Background for a Given ALA
scatter than Figures 4c and 4d, corresponding to RENLA~ [Eq. (11)] is computed from data in Table
SAVI and TSAVI. Low NDVI values are mainly 1 but for only four different ALA values (35 °, 45 °,
affected by the soil (Fig. 4a). The effect of the soil 55 °, and 65 °) in order to decouple the effects of
on PVI is the largest for medium values of this soil background and ALA. Figure 5 displays the
index (Fig. 4b). SAVI and TSAVI (Figs. 4c and 4d) results of this sensitivity study. There are some
greatly reduce the scattering and TSAVI is the large differences among the VIs and their variation
better index according to this test. It is clear that with leaf inclination. Since NDVI is strongly
Eq. (10) is a good semiempirical approximation of affected by the soil optical properties, the rela-
the VI(LAI) relation as confirmed by the statistical tive equivalent noise is very large, for this vege-
analyses (Table 3). The root mean square error, tation index, when the vegetation density is low
evaluated for each VI, has been normalized by the (LAI < 0.5), and when LAI is greater than 3, for
amplitude of variation (VI=-VIg), to facilitate the canopies with a low ALA (35 ° and 45 ° on Fig. 5).
comparison. At LAI less than 4, the relative equivalent noise
does not change much with the increasing LAI if
PVI, SAVI, or TSAVI are considered. In this do-
Sensitivity Analysis of the Relations between main the better index is TSAVI (RENLAI = 15%)
VI and LAI followed by SAVI and PVI. These three indices
have the same noise in the LAI range 2-4. For
The sensitivity of VI(LAI, ALA) to soil background
LAI greater than 4 the hierarchy among the in-
or leaf inclination has been characterized by the
dices changes, especially when the leaves have a
standard deviation (~rvi) of the relation between
low inclination. For that case the worst index is
LAI and VI. This noise is translated into relative
TSAVI followed by NDVI, SAVI, and PVI. For
equivalent LAI noise (RENtz I) defined by
erect leaves the best index is NDVI followed by
O'LaI / L A I , using the local slope of the LAI-VI
relation (d(VI)/d(LAI))
The large variations observed in the relative
equivalent noise for NDVI and TSAVI, when LAI
RENLAI O'LAI_ ~rvi (d(Vi))-1 is greater than 4, are due to the low values of the
= LA---]- LA~ d(LAI) (11)
slope of the relation VI-LAI, because VI is near
The slope of the relation between VI and LAI its saturation level. A small variation in VI can
can be deduced from Eq. (10): correspond to a large variation in LAI. This result
is mainly due to differences in Kvi (Fig. 3) which
d(VI) determines the magnitude of the slope between VI
d(LAI) - KvI'(VIg-VI=)'exp(- KvI'LAI ).
and LAI [Eq. (12)].
Sensitivity to Soil Background and Leaf Inclination
In Eq. (11) VIg is fixed at its average value We next discuss the sensitivity of VI to soil back-
given in Table 2. In most cases VIg varies with soil ground and leaf inclination. For a given LAI, O-vi
type, soil roughness, and moisture, and is not is again computed using the data set of Table 1
generally known. However, information on ALA (variations in soil optical properties and ALA). It is
168 Baret and Guyot

ALA = 35 ° ALA = 4 5 °

0 0

0.5 0.5

0 0
10-t 10 o 101 NDVI 10-1 10 o I01
SAVI .......
~ = 55 ° ALA = 65 °
TSAVI -.-- 1

O 0

Figure ,5. Sensitivity of LAI d e t e r -

0.5 mination to soil b a c k g r o u n d w h e n
different vegetation indices are used
and for 4 average leaf angles (ALA).
T h e sensitivity is e x p r e s s e d as LAI
relative equivalent noise as a flmc-
0 0 tion o f LAI (h)garithmic scale).
10-1 10 o I01 10-1 10 o 101 R E N t a I is e x p r e s s e d in decimal
I.AI LAI fractions ( R E N l~al = crI,AI/LAD.

imately 20% for SAVI and TSAVI and 10% for

"2 / Nov, (ii) When LAI is greater than 3, the noise
o.5 /:/ .... increases sharply as for the effect of soil back-
ground (see above). The additional noise dne to
"~ TSAVI - " -- ALA variation is also quite large.
i i i i i } 111 * i i 1 1 i

10-1 10 0 101
LAI Conclusion
Figure 6. Effect o f soil b a c k g r o u n d and leaf inclination on
LAI estimation from VI. T h e sensitivity is e x p r e s s e d as LAI
relative e q u i v a l e n t noise as a function o f LAI (logarithmic The VI(LAI) relation can be set in the fi)rm of a
scale). R E N t a I is e x p r e s s e d in decimal fraction. simple semiempirical Beer's law [Eq. (10)]. This
approach was used to facilitate the comparison
between the differing VIs. The sensitivity analysis
then translated into RENI~ I using Eqs. (11) and shows that Vls, devised to minimize soil back-
(12). Figure 6 shows that the variation in relative ground effect (PVI, SAVI, TSAVI), strongly reduce
equivalent noise, due to leaf inclination, signifi- the noise for low leaf area indices (LAI < 2-3).
cantly increases whatever the VI considered• Two For greater leaf area indices this gain can be
domains can be distinguished (Fig. 6), that is, compensated by the magnitude of the slope of the
LAI > 3 (i) and LAI < 3 (ii). VI(LAI) fimetion. For example, TSAVI which was
(i) For NDVI, the noise in the determination the best VI for lower LAI, introduced the largest
of LAI decreases with increasing LAI, up to LAI noise for large LAI because it reached its satura-
= 3. This behavior is mainly attributed to soil tion level before the other VIs (except NDVI).
background effect. For the other indices, the noise The noise due to soil background was amplified
is practically constant and the best index is TSAVI when combined with the noise due to leaf inclina-
followed by SAVI and PVI. The contribution of the tion. In all cases it seems to be very diffieuh to
noise due to leaf angle distribution increases the estimate LAI through VI measurements when VI
RENtAI due to soil background (Fig. 5) by approx- is close to Viol, especially when ALA is not known.
Vegetation Indices for LAI and APAR Assessment I69

RELATION BETWEEN VEGETATION ing solar energy to the corresponding instanta-

INDICES AND ABSORBED neous P fraction. For this reason the V I - P rela-
PHOTOSYNTHETICALLY ACTIVE tionships discussed hereafter correspond to the
RADIATION (APAR) daily averaged fraction (P) of absorbed PAR, com-
puted for a 45 ° latitude and a 45 ° solar zenith
General Semiempirical Model Relating angle at noon. Nonlinear fitting of Eq. (14) with
Vegetation Indices and APAR B = 1 to SAIL simulated P values for the Table 1
In the PAR spectral domain (400-700 nm), the data set leads to P= = 0.94 and Kt, value close to
fraction of absorbed incoming radiation (P) can be 1.00 (Baret and Olioso, 1989). These values are
determined from the radiative balance: little affected by leaf inclination and in good
agreement with experimental results (Asrar et al.,
P=I-R,,-(1-G)'T c, (13) 1984; Varlet-Grancher et al., 1989).
where the terms for the PAR domain are LAI can be determined from reflectance mea-
surements in red and near-infrared spectral bands,
R,~ = canopy hemispherical reflectance, so that it is possible to derive P from VI (Daughtry
R~ = soil background hemispherical reflectance, et al., 1983; Hatfield et al., 1984; Wiegand and
Richardson, 1984, 1990a; Gallo et al., 1985). Com-
TC= canopy hemispherical transmittance.
bining the two simplified models, represented by
This fraction is often expressed as a function Eqs. (10) and (14), we establish an analytical
of LAI. Field measurements performed on differ- relation between P and VI:
ent crops such as wheat (Hipps et al., 1983),
maize (Gallo et al., 1985), cotton (Wiegand and [ ( VI~-VI ) (K'/K'')]
Richardson, 1990b), and grassland (Weiser et al.,
e = 1- (15)
1986) show that the seasonal behavior of P, as a
function of LAI, can be expressed by an exponen- This equation shows that P is affected by the
tial function based on Beer's law, optical properties of the soil through VI~ and by
P = P~[1- B ' e x p ( - Kt,.LAI)], (14) the canopy geometry through K t , / K v l and VI~.

where P~ is the asymptotically limiting value of

PAR absorption for infinite thick canopy Sensitivity Analysis of the Relation between
(P~= 0.94) (Wiegand and Hatfield, 1988; Baret P and VI
and Olioso, 1989). B is a parameter ranging be-
tween 0.8 and 1.2, depending on experimental We shall use similar concepts to those used for
errors and deviations from model assumption (ran- LAI determination to define the P relative equiva-
dom distribution of the leaves) (B is usually set to lent noise (RENt,).
1). Kp is equivalent to Kvi in Eq. (11). It is
analogous to the extinction coefficient of the Beer's R E N t _ o¥ _ try, [ d(VI) ] - ' (16)
law and depends on leaf angle distribution and e e [d(e) J
irradiance geometry. For green leaves which have
very high absorptance in the PAR domain, Kp is The slope of the relation between VI and P can be
very close to the extinction coefficient which is deduced from Eq. (15):
defined to compute the interception of light beams
in the canopy. dP ol" P~" (VI~ - V I ) ¢'-1)
W Ix) ot
Absorbed PAR energy can be related to the d(VI) (VI~-
photosynthetic activity of vegetation if it is inte-
grated from sunset to sunrise. In such conditions where a = K e / K v l .
the V I - P relation corresponds to the situation As for the VI(LAI) sensitivity analysis, we shall
where radiometric data are measured at noon, compare the case in which ALA is known and the
with clear sky conditions, and compared to daily case in which it is not known. In the second case,
averaged P. As a consequence, it is necessary to REN t, is a composition of soil brightness and ALA
convoluate, over the day, the instantaneous incom- effects.
170 Baret and Guyot

ALA = 35 ° ALA = 45 °
10 o 10 o

10-t "~ l O - i


i0-~ 10o NDVI--


10-t 10 o
PVI .... P
SAVI .......
M~ = 55 ° TSAVI --.-- 10 o M.~ = 65 °
10 0 v i i i , , T ~_


Figure 7. Sensitivity of P determi-

nation to soil background when dif-
10-t '~ lO-I
o~ ~O
ferent vegetation indices are used
.d and for four average leaf angles
(ALA). The sensitivity is expressed
as P relative equivalent noise as a
10-2 10-2 function of P, both on logarithmic
tO-t 10 o 10-1 lO o scales. REN e is expressed in deci-
mal fraction.

Sensitivity to Soil Background for a Given ALA 10 o

The REN e is calculated for four different leaf
inclinations (35 °, 45 °, 55 °, and 65 °) using the data
0 ~ ' ', I' '" ' '',,'
', N D V I
set of Table 1. Figure 7 shows the existence of lO-I
PVI ....
large differences in the noise associated with dif- SAVI .......
ferent indices. When P is less than 0.5, the worst m
index is NDVI. PVI also induces large errors in
estimating P whatever the leaf inclination• For 10-2
10-t 10 0
this reason, it is not recommended for assessing P.
SAVI and TSAVI provide a good estimate of P
Figure 8. Effect of soil background and leaf inclination on P
throughout the whole domain of P values• How- estimation from VI. The sensitivity is expressed as P relative
ever, TSAVI is better especially for erect leaves. equivalent noise as a function of P, both on logarithmic
The relative noise decreases when the canopy scales. REN e is expressed in decimal fraction.
density increases• For very dense canopies any
vegetation index estimates P well. Conclusion
A general semiempirical model is proposed [Eq.
Sensitivity Analysis to Soil Background and (15)] to relate P to VI. It is based on two semiem-
Leaf Inclination pirical models relating P to LAI [Eq. (14)] and
Figure 8 displays the results of the sensitivity LAI to VI [Eq. (10)]. It gives a formulation within
analysis P(VI) to both leaf inclination and soil which the sensitivity of P to soil background and
background. We observe the same hierarchy of leaf inclination can be analyzed through the use of
indices as shown in Figure 7. The best index is VIs. TSAVI seems to be the most reliable VI when
TSAVI followed by SAVI, PVI, and NDVI. Dif- the leaf inclination angle is known. The relative
ferences in relative noise among the VIs are less- equivalent noise is always below 10%• NDVI and
ened comparatively to the case corresponding only PVI are very sensitive to soil optical properties,
to the soil background effect. Nevertheless, SAVI especially for P values below 0.5, so that they are
and TSAVI have REN e below 30% over the range the least reliable• When the leaf inclination is not
of variation of P, which drastically decreases when known, SAVI and TSAVI are better than NDVI
P is greater than 0.5. and PVI for estimating P.
Vegetation Indices for LAI and APAR Assessment 1 71

GENERAL CONCLUSION leaf optical properties or atmospheric conditions.

There is no doubt that the restricted vegetation
The most commonly used vegetation indices, com- indices, based on reflectance factors of red and
bining red and near-infrared reflectance or radi- near-infrared bands, cannot solve simultaneously
ance data, have been sorted into two categories: all these ambiguities. It is necessary to extend the
distance-related vegetation indices (PVI, WDVI, concept to more than two spectral bands and one
GVI) and slope-related vegetation indices (RVI, view direction. The increasing complexity for
NDVI, SAVI, TSAVI). For the sensitivity analysis building these "extended" indices will presumably
we selected four indices (NDVI, PVI, SAVI, tend towards the implicitly underlying "inverse"
TSAVI) that are not functionally equivalent, and problem.
proposed general semiempirical models to relate
VI to LAI and VI to P. The sensitivity analysis of
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