Integration of Landsat-8 Thermal and Visible-Short Wave Infrared Data for Improving Prediction Accuracy of Forest Leaf Area Index

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Leaf area index (LAI) has been investigated in multiple studies, either by means of visible/near-infrared and shortwave-infrared or thermal infrared remotely sensed data, with various degrees of accuracy. However, it is not yet known how the integration of visible/near and shortwave-infrared and thermal infrared data affect estimates of LAI. In this study, we examined the utility of Landsat-8 thermal infrared data together with its spectral data from the visible/near and shortwave-infrared region to quantify the LAI of a mixed temperate forest in Germany. A field campaign was carried out in August 2015, in the Bavarian Forest National Park, concurrent with the time of the Landsat-8 overpass, and a number of forest structural parameters, including LAI and proportion of vegetation cover, were measured for 37 plots. A normalised difference vegetation index threshold method was applied to calculate land surface emissivity and land surface temperature and their relations to LAI were investigated. Next, the relation between LAI and eight commonly used vegetation indices were examined using the visible/near-infrared and shortwave-infrared remote sensing data. Finally, the artificial neural network was used to predict the LAI using: (i) reflectance data from the Landsat-8 operational land imager (OLI) sensor; (ii) reflectance data from the OLI sensor and the land surface emissivity; and (iii) reflectance data from the OLI sensor and land surface temperature. A stronger relationship was observed between LAI and land surface emissivity compared to that between LAI and land surface temperature. In general, LAI was predicted with relatively low accuracy by means of the vegetation indices. Among the studied vegetation indices, the modified vegetation index had the highest accuracy for LAI prediction (R2CV = 0.33, RMSECV = 1.21 m2m−2). Nevertheless, using the visible/near-infrared and shortwave-infrared spectral data in the artificial neural network, the prediction accuracy of LAI increased (R2CV = 0.58, RMSECV = 0.83 m2m−2). The integration of reflectance and land surface emissivity significantly improved the prediction accuracy of the LAI (R2CV = 0.81, RMSECV = 0.63 m2m−2). For the first time, our results demonstrate that the combination of Landsat-8 reflectance spectral data from the visible/near-infrared and shortwave-infrared domain and thermal infrared data can boost the estimation accuracy of the LAI in a forest ecosystem. This finding has implication for the prediction of other vegetation biophysical, or possibly biochemical variables using thermal infrared satellite remote sensing data, as well as regional mapping of LAI when coupled with a canopy radiative transfer model.
Original languageEnglish
Article number390
Number of pages15
JournalRemote sensing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2019


  • Landsat-8
  • Thermal infrared
  • Artificial neural networks
  • Land surface emissivity
  • Vegetation Indices
  • Land surface temperature
  • Leaf area index


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