Canopy Attributes of Desert Grassland and Transition Communities Derived from Multiangular Airborne Imagery

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The surface bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF) contains valuable information on canopy physiognomy for desert grassland and grass-shrub transition communities. This information may be accessed by inverting a BRDF model against sets of observations, which encompass important variations in viewing and illumination angles. This paper shows that structural canopy attributes can be derived through inversion of the Simple Geometric Model (SGM) of the BRDF developed in this paper. It is difficult to sample BRDF features from the ground because of the discontinuous nature of the canopies and long intrinsic length scales in remotely sensed spectral measures (>10 m). A multispectral digital camera was therefore used to derive spatial multiangular reflectance data sets from the air and the SGM was validated against and inverted with these. It was also validated using 3-D radiosity simulations driven with maps of field-measured plant dimensions. The interpretation of the retrieved parameter maps (shrub density, shrub width and canopy height) reveals variations in canopy structure within desert grassland and grassland-shrubland transition communities, which are clearly related to structural and optical features in high resolution panchromatic and vegetation index images. To our knowledge, this paper reports on the first attempts to acquire structural canopy attributes of desert landscapes using multiple view angle data at scales less than 1 km. The results point to further opportunities to exploit multiangular data from spaceborne sensors such as the Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) and the Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (CHRIS) on the NASA Terra and European Space Agency's PROBA satellites, respectively.



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