, Volume 184, Issue 3, pp 1275-1286
Date: 06 Apr 2011

Evaluating the difference between the normalized difference vegetation index and net primary productivity as the indicators of vegetation vigor assessment at landscape scale

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Abstract

Both the net primary productivity (NPP) and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) are commonly used as indicators to characterize vegetation vigor, and NDVI has been used as a surrogate estimator of NPP in some cases. To evaluate the reliability of such surrogation, here we examined the quantitative difference between NPP and NDVI in their outcomes of vegetation vigor assessment at a landscape scale. Using Landsat ETM+ data and a process model, the Boreal Ecosystem Productivity Simulator, NPP distribution was mapped at a resolution of 90 m, and total NDVI during the growing season was calculated in Heihe River Basin, Northwest China in 2002. The results from a comparison between the NPP and NDVI classification maps show that there existed a substantial difference in terms of both area and spatial distribution between the assessment outcomes of these two indicators, despite that they are strongly correlated. The degree of difference can be influenced by assessment schemes, as well as the type of vegetation and ecozone. Overall, NDVI is not a good surrogate of NPP as the indicators of vegetation vigor assessment in the study area. Nonetheless, NDVI could serve as a fairish surrogate indicator under the condition that the target region has low vegetation cover and the assessment has relatively coarse classification schemes (i.e., the class number is small). It is suggested that the use of NPP and NDVI should be carefully selected in landscape assessment. Their differences need to be further evaluated across geographic areas and biomes.