Remote Sensing of the Canadian Arctic: Modelling Biophysical Variables
Remote sensing , Arctic , Percent vegetation cover , fAPAR , Vegetation
It is anticipated that Arctic vegetation will respond in a variety of ways to altered temperature and precipitation patterns expected with climate change, including changes in phenology, productivity, biomass, cover and net ecosystem exchange. Remote sensing provides data and data processing methodologies for monitoring and assessing Arctic vegetation over large areas. The goal of this research was to explore the potential of hyperspectral and high spatial resolution multispectral remote sensing data for modelling two important Arctic biophysical variables: Percent Vegetation Cover (PVC) and the fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (fAPAR). A series of field experiments were conducted to collect PVC and fAPAR at three Canadian Arctic sites: (1) Sabine Peninsula, Melville Island, NU; (2) Cape Bounty Arctic Watershed Observatory (CBAWO), Melville Island, NU; and (3) Apex River Watershed (ARW), Baffin Island, NU. Linear relationships between biophysical variables and Vegetation Indices (VIs) were examined at different spatial scales using field spectra (for the Sabine Peninsula site) and high spatial resolution satellite data (for the CBAWO and ARW sites). At the Sabine Peninsula site, hyperspectral VIs exhibited a better performance for modelling PVC than multispectral VIs due to their capacity for sampling fine spectral features. The optimal hyperspectral bands were located at important spectral features observed in Arctic vegetation spectra, including leaf pigment absorption in the red wavelengths and at the red-edge, leaf water absorption in the near infrared, and leaf cellulose and lignin absorption in the shortwave infrared. At the CBAWO and ARW sites, field PVC and fAPAR exhibited strong correlations (R2 > 0.70) with the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) derived from high-resolution WorldView-2 data. Similarly, high spatial resolution satellite-derived fAPAR was correlated to MODIS fAPAR (R2 = 0.68), with a systematic overestimation of 0.08, which was attributed to PAR absorption by soil that could not be excluded from the fAPAR calculation. This research clearly demonstrates that high spectral and spatial resolution remote sensing VIs can be used to successfully model Arctic biophysical variables. The methods and results presented in this research provided a guide for future studies aiming to model other Arctic biophysical variables through remote sensing data.