, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 577-598

Thermal infrared remote sensing for analysis of landscape ecological processes: methods and applications

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Abstract

Thermal infrared (TIR) remote sensing data can provide important measurements of surface energy fluxes and temperatures, which are integral to understanding landscape processes and responses. One example of this is the successful application of TIR remote sensing data to estimate evapotranspiration and soil moisture, where results from a number of studies suggest that satellite-based measurements from TIR remote sensing data can lead to more accurate regional-scale estimates of daily evapotranspiration. With further refinement in analytical techniques and models, the use of TIR data from airborne and satellite sensors could be very useful for parameterizing surface moisture conditions and developing better simulations of landscape energy exchange over a variety of conditions and space and time scales. Thus, TIR remote sensing data can significantly contribute to the observation, measurement, and analysis of energy balance characteristics (i.e., the fluxes and redistribution of thermal energy within and across the land surface) as an implicit and important aspect of landscape dynamics and landscape functioning.

The application of TIR remote sensing data in landscape ecological studies has been limited, however, for several fundamental reasons that relate primarily to the perceived difficulty in use and availability of these data by the landscape ecology community, and from the fragmentation of references on TIR remote sensing throughout the scientific literature. It is our purpose here to provide evidence from work that has employed TIR remote sensing for analysis of landscape characteristics to illustrate how these data can provide important data for the improved measurement of landscape energy response and energy flux relationships. We examine the direct or indirect use of TIR remote sensing data to analyze landscape biophysical characteristics, thereby offering some insight on how these data can be used more robustly to further the understanding and modeling of landscape ecological processes.