The superiority of the normalized difference phenology index (NDPI) for estimating grassland aboveground fresh biomass

Dawei Xu, Cong Wang, Jin Chen, Miaogen Shen, Beibei Shen, Ruirui Yan, Zhenwang Li, Arnon Karnieli, Jiquan Chen, Yuchun Yan, Xu Wang, Baorui Chen, Dameng Yin, Xiaoping Xin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Accurate monitoring of grassland aboveground fresh biomass (called AGB in the study) and its spatial-temporal dynamics is indispensable for sustainable grassland management. The most common method used in estimating AGB with remotely sensed data is based on the relationship between field AGB measurements and vegetation indices (VIs); however, the existing VIs do not deliver adequate results due to the soil background and spatial, temporal and sampling size variability. In this study, the AGB estimation model with the normalized difference phenology index (NDPI) was evaluated in terms of model robustness and spatial and temporal scalability based on comparisons with the widely used ratio vegetation index (RVI), difference vegetation index (DVI), normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), enhanced vegetation index (EVI), soil-adjusted vegetation index (SAVI), modified soil-adjusted vegetation index (MSAVI), and optimized soil-adjusted vegetation index (OSAVI). The field measurements of AGB of the natural grassland in Inner Mongolia, China, collected in 2013, 2016, and 2017 and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) surface reflectance products were used for analysis. The results based on training and independent validation data showed the following: (1) The R2 value between AGB and the NDPI was the highest (0.73) among all VIs, followed by soil-line-adjusted VIs, while the R2 values of the RVI and DVI were the lowest; (2) The NDPI-based model had the best robustness for different sampling sizes; (3) The NDPI-based model also had superior spatial and temporal scalability. The results from simulation experiments using the PROSAIL model also support the superiority of the NDPI in estimating AGB. The simulation analysis further reveals that the overall superiority of the NDPI originates from the fact that the NDPI overcomes the adverse impacts of the heterogeneity of the soil background and accounts for changes in the leaf water content that contribute substantially to AGB in grassland. These findings suggest that the NDPI-based AGB estimation model is advantageous for monitoring AGB in large grasslands with significant spatial-temporal heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112578
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Aboveground fresh biomass
  • Grassland
  • Normalized difference phenology index (NDPI)
  • Soil background
  • Vegetation index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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