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Lars Eklundh


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Assessing forest phenology : A multi-scale comparison of near-surface (UAV, spectral reflectance sensor, phenocam) and satellite (MODIS, sentinel-2) remote sensing


  • Shangharsha Thapa
  • Virginia E. Garcia Millan
  • Lars Eklundh

Summary, in English

The monitoring of forest phenology based on observations from near-surface sensors such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), PhenoCams, and Spectral Reflectance Sensors (SRS) over satellite sensors has recently gained significant attention in the field of remote sensing and vegetation phenology. However, exploring different aspects of forest phenology based on observations from these sensors and drawing comparatives from the time series of vegetation indices (VIs) still remains a challenge. Accordingly, this research explores the potential of near-surface sensors to track the temporal dynamics of phenology, cross-compare their results against satellite observations (MODIS, Sentinel-2), and validate satellite-derived phenology. A time series of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Green Chromatic Coordinate (GCC), and Normalized Difference of Green & Red (VIgreen) indices were extracted from both near-surface and satellite sensor platforms. The regression analysis between time series of NDVI data from different sensors shows the high Pearson’s correlation coefficients (r > 0.75). Despite the good correlations, there was a remarkable offset and significant differences in slope during green-up and senescence periods. SRS showed the most distinctive NDVI profile and was different to other sensors. PhenoCamGCC tracked green-up of the canopy better than the other indices, with a well-defined start, end, and peak of the season, and was most closely correlated (r > 0.93) with the satellites, while SRS-based VIgreen accounted for the least correlation (r = 0.58) against Sentinel-2. Phenophase transition dates were estimated and validated against visual inspection of the PhenoCam data. The Start of Spring (SOS) and End of Spring (EOS) could be predicted with an accuracy of <3 days with GCC, while these metrics from VIgreen and NDVI resulted in a slightly higher bias of (3–10) days. The observed agreement between UAVNDVI vs. satelliteNDVI and PhenoCamGCC vs. satelliteGCC suggests that it is feasible to use PhenoCams and UAVs for satellite data validation and upscaling. Thus, a combination of these near-surface vegetation metrics is promising for a holistic understanding of vegetation phenology from canopy perspective and could serve as a good foundation for analysing the interoperability of different sensors for vegetation dynamics and change analysis.


  • Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate
  • MERGE: ModElling the Regional and Global Earth system

Publishing year





Remote Sensing





Document type

Journal article




  • Physical Geography
  • Remote Sensing


  • Forest phenology
  • GCC
  • NDVI
  • Near-surface remote sensing
  • PhenoCam
  • Seasonality
  • Sensor comparison
  • Sentinel-2
  • SRS
  • UAV




  • ISSN: 2072-4292