Using ground observations of a digital camera in the VIS-NIR range for quantifying the phenology of Mediterranean woody species

Gilad Weil*, Itamar M. Lensky, Noam Levin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The spectral reflectance of most plant species is quite similar, and thus the feasibility of identifying most plant species based on single date multispectral data is very low. Seasonal phenological patterns of plant species may enable to face the challenge of using remote sensing for mapping plant species at the individual level. We used a consumer-grade digital camera with near infra-red capabilities in order to extract and quantify vegetation phenological information in four East Mediterranean sites. After illumination corrections and other noise reduction steps, the phenological patterns of 1839 individuals representing 12 common species were analyzed, including evergreen trees, winter deciduous trees, semi-deciduous summer shrubs and annual herbaceous patches. Five vegetation indices were used to describe the phenology: relative green and red (green\red chromatic coordinate), excess green (ExG), normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and green-red vegetation index (GRVI). We found significant differences between the phenology of the various species, and defined the main phenological groups using agglomerative hierarchical clustering. Differences between species and sites regarding the start of season (SOS), maximum of season (MOS) and end of season (EOS) were displayed in detail, using ExG values, as this index was found to have the lowest percentage of outliers. An additional visible band spectral index (relative red) was found as useful for characterizing seasonal phenology, and had the lowest correlation with the other four vegetation indices, which are more sensitive to greenness. We used a linear mixed model in order to evaluate the influences of various factors on the phenology, and found that unlike the significant effect of species and individuals on SOS, MOS and EOS, the sites' location did not have a direct significant effect on the timing of phenological events. In conclusion, the relative advantage of the proposed methodology is the exploitation of representative temporal information that is collected with accessible and simple devices, for the subsequent determination of optimal temporal acquisition of images by overhead sensors, for vegetation mapping over larger areas.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)88-101
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Classification
  • Digital camera
  • Mediterranean
  • Phenology
  • Remote sensing
  • Tree species


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