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Monitoring regional vegetation change using reflectance measurements from multiple solar zenith angles

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 12:54 authored by Russell, MJ
Many traditional models of vegetation canopy reflectance have commonly used one of two approaches. Either the canopy is assumed to consist of discrete objects of known reflectance and geometric-optics are then used to calculate shading effects, or, as in the turbid medium approach, the canopy is treated as a horizontally homogeneous layer of small elements of known optical properties and radiative transfer theory is used to calculate canopy reflectance. This paper examines the effect of solar zenith angle on the reflectance of red and near-infrared radiation from forests using a combination of these modelling approaches. Forests are first modelled as randomly spaced eucalypt crowns over a homogeneous understorey and the fractional coverage of four components: shaded and sunlit canopy and shaded and sunlit understorey are calculated. Reflectance from each fraction is then modelled for a range of solar zenith angles using the Verhoef SAIL model. The overall scene reflection as seen by a nadir viewing satellite sensor is compared for three forest types representing a gradient of crown density from open dry grassy woodlands to dense wetter closed forest with an understorey of mesophytic plants. Modelled trends in scene reflectance change are consistent with aircraft measurements carried out at three different solar zenith angles. Results indicate that an increase in both tree density and solar zenith angle leads to an increase in the dominance of shaded components. In the visible band, both the sparsely treed woodland and the medium density dry forest show similar trends to that predicted by a turbid medium model, however, the wet forest shows a less rapid decrease in reflectance with solar zenith angle. In the near-infrared band, as tree density increases from woodland to wet forest, overall scene reflectance shows increased departure from that modelled using the traditional assumption of smooth homogeneous canopies, changing from an increase with solar zenith angle for the woodland to a decrease with solar zenith angle for the forest types. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


Publication title

Environment International










School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd

Place of publication

Oxford, UK

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Climate variability (excl. social impacts)

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