Downscaling real-time vegetation dynamics by fusing multi-temporal MODIS and Landsat NDVI in topographically complex terrain

Taehee Hwang, Conghe Song, Paul V. Bolstad, Lawrence E. Band

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Canopy phenology is an important factor driving seasonal patterns of water and carbon exchange between land surface and atmosphere. Recent developments of real-time global satellite products (e.g., MODIS) provide the potential to assimilate dynamic canopy measurements with spatially distributed process-based ecohydrological models. However, global satellite products usually are provided with relatively coarse spatial resolutions, averaging out important spatial heterogeneity of both terrain and vegetation. Therefore, bias can result from lumped representation of ecological and hydrological processes especially in topographically complex terrain. Successful downscaling of canopy phenology to high spatial resolution would be indispensable for catchment-scale distributed ecohydrological modeling, aiming at understanding complex patterns of water, carbon and nutrient cycling in mountainous watersheds. Two downscaling approaches are developed in this study to overcome this issue by fusing multi-temporal MODIS and Landsat TM data in conjunction with topographic information to estimate high spatio-temporal resolution biophysical parameters over complex terrain. MODIS FPAR (fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation) is used to provide medium spatial resolution phenology, while the variability of vegetation within a MODIS pixel is characterized by Landsat NDVI. The algorithms depend on the scale-invariant linear relationship between FPAR and NDVI, which is verified in this study. Downscaled vegetation dynamics are successfully validated both temporally and spatially with ground-based continuous FPAR and leaf area index measurements. Topographic correction during the downscaling process has a limited effect on downscaled FPAR products except for the period around the winter solstice in the study area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2499-2512
Number of pages14
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 17 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research represented in this paper was supported by the National Science Foundation award to the Coweeta Long-Term Ecologic Research project (DEB #0823293). We thank four anonymous reviewers for constructive comments and suggestions which substantially improved the quality of this manuscript.


  • Downscale
  • FPAR
  • Landsat
  • MODIS-Landsat fusion


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