Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 631–656 | Cite as

Variability and Uncertainty Challenges in Scaling Imaging Spectroscopy Retrievals and Validations from Leaves Up to Vegetation Canopies

  • Zbyněk MalenovskýEmail author
  • Lucie Homolová
  • Petr Lukeš
  • Henning Buddenbaum
  • Jochem Verrelst
  • Luis Alonso
  • Michael E. Schaepman
  • Nicolas Lauret
  • Jean-Philippe Gastellu-Etchegorry


Imaging spectroscopy of vegetation requires methods for scaling and generalizing optical signals that are reflected, transmitted and emitted in the solar wavelength domain from single leaves and observed at the level of canopies by proximal sensing, airborne and satellite spectroradiometers. The upscaling embedded in imaging spectroscopy retrievals and validations of plant biochemical and structural traits is challenged by natural variability and measurement uncertainties. Sources of the leaf-to-canopy upscaling variability and uncertainties are reviewed with respect to: (1) implementation of retrieval algorithms and (2) their parameterization and validation of quantitative products through in situ field measurements. The challenges are outlined and discussed for empirical and physical leaf and canopy radiative transfer modelling components, considering both forward and inverse modes. Discussion on optical remote sensing validation schemes includes also description of a multiscale validation concept and its advantages. Impacts of intraspecific and interspecific variability on collected field and laboratory measurements of leaf biochemical traits and optical properties are demonstrated for selected plant species, and field measurement uncertainty sources are listed and discussed specifically for foliar pigments and canopy leaf area index. The review concludes with the main findings and suggestions as how to reduce uncertainties and include variability in scaling vegetation imaging spectroscopy signals and functional traits of single leaves up to observations of whole canopies.


Quantitative remote sensing Imaging spectroscopy Retrieval of vegetation traits Radiative transfer models Inversion Variability Uncertainty Scaling Multiscale validation 



The contribution of ZM was supported by the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship: Bridging scales in remote sensing of vegetation stress (FT160100477). The work of LH and PL was supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic by the National Sustainability Program I (NPU I) from Grant Number LO1415. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology supported HB within the framework of the EnMAP project (Contract No. 50 EE 1530). JV was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the ERC-2017-STG SENTIFLEX project (Grant Agreement 755617). The University of Zurich Research Priority Program on Global Change and Biodiversity (URPP GCB) supported the contribution of MES. The authors acknowledge constructive comments provided by the reviewers that helped to improve the quality of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zbyněk Malenovský
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Lucie Homolová
    • 2
  • Petr Lukeš
    • 2
  • Henning Buddenbaum
    • 4
  • Jochem Verrelst
    • 5
  • Luis Alonso
    • 5
  • Michael E. Schaepman
    • 6
  • Nicolas Lauret
    • 7
  • Jean-Philippe Gastellu-Etchegorry
    • 7
  1. 1.Surveying and Spatial Sciences Group, School of Technology, Environments and DesignUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Global Change Research Institute CASRemote Sensing DepartmentBrnoCzech Republic
  3. 3.USRA/GESTAR, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Biospheric Sciences LaboratoryGreenbeltUSA
  4. 4.Environmental Remote Sensing and GeoinformaticsTrier UniversityTrierGermany
  5. 5.Image Processing Laboratory (IPL), Parc CientíficUniversitat de ValènciaPaterna, ValenciaSpain
  6. 6.Remote Sensing Laboratories, Department of GeographyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  7. 7.Centre d’Etudes Spatiales de la Biosphère - UPS, CNES, CNRS, IRDUniversité de ToulouseToulouse Cedex 9France

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