Articles | Volume 10, issue 11
Research article
04 Nov 2013
Research article |  | 04 Nov 2013

Multiresolution quantification of deciduousness in West-Central African forests

G. Viennois, N. Barbier, I. Fabre, and P. Couteron

Abstract. The characterization of leaf phenology in tropical forests is of major importance for forest typology as well as to improve our understanding of earth–atmosphere–climate interactions or biogeochemical cycles. The availability of satellite optical data with a high temporal resolution has permitted the identification of unexpected phenological cycles, particularly over the Amazon region. A primary issue in these studies is the relationship between the optical reflectance of pixels of 1 km or more in size and ground information of limited spatial extent. In this paper, we demonstrate that optical data with high to very-high spatial resolution can help bridge this scale gap by providing snapshots of the canopy that allow discernment of the leaf-phenological stage of trees and the proportions of leaved crowns within the canopy. We also propose applications for broad-scale forest characterization and mapping in West-Central Africa over an area of 141 000 km2.

Eleven years of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) data were averaged over the wet and dry seasons to provide a data set of optimal radiometric quality at a spatial resolution of 250 m. Sample areas covered at a very-high (GeoEye) and high (SPOT-5) spatial resolution were used to identify forest types and to quantify the proportion of leaved trees in the canopy. The dry-season EVI was positively correlated with the proportion of leaved trees in the canopy. This relationship allowed the conversion of EVI into canopy deciduousness at the regional level. On this basis, ecologically important forest types could be mapped, including young secondary, open Marantaceae, Gilbertiodendron dewevrei and swamp forests. We show that in West-Central African forests, a large share of the variability in canopy reflectance, as captured by the EVI, is due to variation in the proportion of leaved trees in the upper canopy, thereby opening new perspectives for biodiversity and carbon-cycle applications.

Final-revised paper