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Ecosystem functional assessment based on the "optical type" concept and self-similarity patterns: An application using MODIS-NDVI time series autocorrelation

  • Margarita Huesca
  • Silvia Merino-de-Miguel
  • Lars Eklundh
  • Javier Litago
  • Victor Cicuendez
  • Manuel Rodriguez-Rastrero
  • Susan L. Ustin
  • Alicia Palacios-Orueta
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 132-148
Publication/Series: ITC Journal
Volume: 43
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

Remote sensing (RS) time series are an excellent operative source for information about the land surface across several scales and different levels of landscape heterogeneity. Ustin and Gamon (2010) proposed the new concept of "optical types" (OT), meaning "optically distinguishable functional types", as a way to better understand remote sensing signals related to the actual functional behavior of species that share common physiognomic forms but differ in functionality. Whereas the OT approach seems to be promising and consistent with ecological theory as a way to monitor vegetation derived from RS, it received little implementation. This work presents a method for implementing the OT concept for efficient monitoring of ecosystems based on RS time series. We propose relying on an ecosystem's repetitive pattern in the temporal domain (self-similarity) to assess its dynamics. Based on this approach, our main hypothesis is that distinct dynamics are intrinsic to a specific OT. Self-similarity level in the temporal domain within a broadleaf forest class was quantitatively assessed using the auto-correlation function (ACF), from statistical time series analysis. A vector comparison classification method, spectral angle mapper, and principal component analysis were used to identify general patterns related to forest dynamics. Phenological metrics derived from MOD IS NDVI time series using the TIMESAT software, together with information from the National Forest Map were used to explain the different dynamics found. Results showed significant and highly stable self-similarity patterns in OTs that corresponded to forests under non-moisture-limited environments with an adaptation strategy based on a strong phenological synchrony with climate seasonality. These forests are characterized by dense closed canopy deciduous forests associated with high productivity and low biodiversity in terms of dominant species. Forests in transitional areas were associated with patterns of less temporal stability probably due to mixtures of different adaptation strategies (i.e., deciduous, marcescent and evergreen species) and higher functional diversity related to climate variability at long and short terms. A less distinct seasonality and even a double season appear in the OT of the broadleaf Mediterranean forest characterized by an open canopy dominated by evergreen-sclerophyllous formations. Within this forest, understory and overstory dynamics maximize functional diversity resulting in contrasting traits adapted to summer drought, winter frosts, and high precipitation variability. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


  • Ecology
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • MODIS time series
  • Autocorrelation function
  • Phenometrics
  • Optical type
  • Ecosystem dynamics


  • ISSN: 0303-2434
E-mail: lars [dot] eklundh [at] nateko [dot] lu [dot] se


Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science

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Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science


Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
Lund University
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