Remote sensing of vegetation water content from equivalent water thickness using satellite imagery

Yılmaz, Mustafa Tuğrul
Hunt Jr., E. Raymond
Jackson, Thomas J.
Vegetation water content (VWC) is one of the most important parameters for the successful retrieval of soil moisture content from microwave data. Normalized Difference Infrared Index (NDII) is a widely-used index to remotely sense Equivalent Water Thickness (EWT) of leaves and canopies; however, the amount of water in the foliage is a small part of total VWC. Sites of corn (Zea mays), soybean (Glycine max), and deciduous hardwood woodlands were sampled to estimate EWT and VWC during the Soil Moisture Experiment 2005 (SMEX05) near Ames, Iowa, USA. Using a time series of Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper, Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) and Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWiFS) imagery, NDII was related to EWT with R2 of 0.85; there were no significant differences among land-cover types. Furthermore, EWT was linearly related to VWC with R2 of 0.87 for corn and 0.48 for soybeans, with a significantly larger slope for corn. The 2005 land-cover classification product from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service had an overall accuracy of 92% and was used to spatially distribute VWC over the landscape. SMEX05 VWC versus NDII regressions were compared with the regressions from the Soil Moisture Experiment 2002 (SMEX02), which was conducted in the same study area. No significant difference was found between years for corn (P = 0.13), whereas there was a significant difference for soybean (P = 0.04). Allometric relationships relate the size of one part of a plant to the sizes of other parts, and may be the result from the requirements of structural support or material transport. Relationships between NDII and VWC are indirect, NDII is related to canopy EWT, which in turn is allometrically related to VWC.