J Plant Ecol ›› 2019, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (3): 395-408.doi: 10.1093/jpe/rty036

• Research Articles •     Next Articles

Comparison of leaf area index inversion for grassland vegetation through remotely sensed spectra by unmanned aerial vehicle and field-based spectroradiometer

Zongyao Sha1,2,*, Yuwei Wang1, Yongfei Bai3, Yujin Zhao3, Hua Jin4, Ya Na5 and Xiaoliang Meng1   

  1. 1 Department of Spatial Information & Digital Engineering, School of Remote Sensing and Information Engineering, Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei 430079, China
    2 Research Center of Spatial Information and Digital Engineering of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, Wuhan, Hubei 430079, China
    3 Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
    4 Inner Mongolia Institute of Grassland Surveying and Planning, Hohhot 010051, China
    5 Key Laboratory of Forage Cultivation, College of Grassland, Resources and Environment, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Hohhot 010018, China
    *Correspondence address. Department of Spatial Information & Digital Engineering, School of Remote Sensing and Information Engineering, Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei 430079, China. Tel/Fax: +86-27-68778770; E-mail: zongyaosha@163.com
  • Received:2018-07-26 Revised:2018-09-02 Accepted:2018-09-11 Online:2019-05-15 Published:2019-07-01



Remote sensing technology has been proved useful in mapping grassland vegetation properties. Spectral features of vegetation cover can be recorded by optical sensors on board of different platforms. With increasing popularity of applying unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to mapping plant cover, the study aims to investigate the possible applications and potential issues related to mapping leaf area index (LAI) through integration of remote sensing imagery collected by multiple sensors.


This paper applied the collected spectral data through field-based (FLD) and UAV-borne spectroradiometer to map LAI in a Sino–German experiment pasture located in the Xilingol grassland, Inner Mongolia, China. Spectroradiometers on FLD and UAV platforms were taken to measure spectral reflectance related to the targeted vegetation properties. Based on eight vegetation indices (VIs) computed from the collected hyperspectral data, regression models were used to inverse LAI. The spectral responses between FLD and UAV platforms were compared, and the regression models relating LAI with VIs from FLD and UAV were established. The modeled LAIs by UAV and FLD platforms were analyzed in order to evaluate the feasibility of potential integration of spectra data for mapping vegetation from the two platforms.

Important Findings

Results indicated that the spectral reflectance between FLD and UAV showed critical gaps in the green and near-infrared regions of the spectrum over densely vegetated areas, while the gaps were small over sparsely vegetated areas. The VI values from FLD spectra were greater than their UAV-based counterparts. Out of all the VIs, broadband generalized soil-adjusted vegetation index (GESAVI) and narrow-band nNDVI2 were found to achieve the best results in terms of the accuracy of the inversed LAIs for both FLD and UAV platforms. We conclude that GESAVI and nNDVI2 are the two promising VIs for both platforms and thus preferred for LAI inversion to carry spectra integration of the two platforms. We suggest that accuracy on the LAI inversion could be improved by applying more advanced functions (e.g. non-linear) considering the observed bias for the difference between the UAV- and FLD-inversed LAIs, especially when LAI was low.

Key words: grassland, leaf area index, unmanned aerial vehicle, vegetation index, remote sensing

[1] Lin Wei, Pengwei Yao, Guanghua Jing, Xiefeng Ye and Jimin Cheng. Root production, mortality and turnover in soil profiles as affected by clipping in a temperate grassland on the Loess Plateau [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2019, 12(6): 1059-1072.
[2] Zhaoqi Wang, Jinfeng Chang, Shushi Peng, , Shilong Piao, Philippe Ciais and Richard Betts. Changes in productivity and carbon storage of grasslands in China under future global warming scenarios of 1.5°C and 2°C [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2019, 12(5): 804-814.
[3] Yang Li, Longyu Hou, Bing Song, Shiqiang Wan, Xiaoqin Sun and Linghao Li. Seasonal distribution of increased precipitation in maternal environments influences offspring performance of Potentilla tanacetifolia in a temperate steppe ecosystem [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2019, 12(4): 742-750.
[4] Luhong Zhou, Haihua Shen, Leiyi Chen, He Li, Pujin Zhang, Xia Zhao, Taoyu Liu, Shangshi Liu, Aijun Xing, Huifeng Hu and Jingyun Fang. Species richness and composition of shrub-encroached grasslands in relation to environmental factors in northern China [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2019, 12(1): 56-66.
[5] Jin-Bin Chen, Cheng-Cheng Dong, Xiao-Dong Yao and Wei Wang.
Effects of nitrogen addition on plant biomass and tissue elemental content in different degradation stages of temperate steppe in northern China
[J]. J Plant Ecol, 2018, 11(5): 730-739.
[6] Talat Afreen, Pratap Srivastava, Hema Singh and Jamuna Sharan Singh. Effect of invasion by Hyptis suaveolens on plant diversity and selected soil properties of a constructed tropical grassland [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2018, 11(5): 751-760.
[7] Elizabeth H. Boughton, Patrick J. Bohlen, Julia H. Maki. Effects of experimental season of prescribed fire and nutrient addition on structure and function of previously grazed grassland [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2018, 11(4): 576-584.
[8] Valerie Cayssials, Claudia Rodríguez. The adaptive value of grass traits in response to grazing [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2018, 11(2): 248-255.
[9] Lisette M. Bakker, Liesje Mommer, Jasper van Ruijven. Can root trait diversity explain complementarity effects in a grassland biodiversity experiment? [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2018, 11(1): 73-84.
[10] Gabriela Aparecida de Oliveira Coelho, Marcela de Castro Nunes Santos Terra, Hisaias de Souza Almeida, Eduardo van den Berg. What can natural edges of gallery forests teach us about woody community performance in sharp ecotones? [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2017, 10(6): 937-948.
[11] Andreza Viana Neri, Gladson Ramon Alves Borges, João Augusto Alves Meira-Neto, Luiz Fernando Silva Magnago, Ian Michael Trotter, Carlos Ernesto G. R. Schaefer, Stefan Porembski. Soil and altitude drive diversity and functioning of Brazilian Páramos (campo de altitude) [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2017, 10(5): 771-779.
[12] Valentin H. Klaus, Deborah Schäfer, Till Kleinebecker, Markus Fischer, Daniel Prati, Norbert Hölzel. Enriching plant diversity in grasslands by large-scale experimental sward disturbance and seed addition along gradients of land-use intensity [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2017, 10(4): 581-591.
[13] Saruul Kang, Jianming Niu, Qing Zhang, Dan Li, Haijuan Ren, Jing Ren, Xuefeng Zhang, Jianjun Dong. Environmental filtering does not necessarily prevent trait divergence: a case study of the Xilin River Basin in Inner Mongolia, China [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2017, 10(3): 497-509.
[14] Iftikhar Ali, Fiona Cawkwell, Edward Dwyer, Brian Barrett, Stuart Green. Satellite remote sensing of grasslands: from observation to management [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2016, 9(6): 649-671.
[15] Bing Song, Shuli Niu, Shiqiang Wan. Precipitation regulates plant gas exchange and its long-term response to climate change in a temperate grassland [J]. J Plant Ecol, 2016, 9(5): 531-541.
Full text



[1] . [J]. Chin Bull Bot, 1994, 11(专辑): 19 .
[2] Xiao Xiao and Cheng Zhen-qi. Chloroplast 4.5 S ribosomol DNA. II Gene and Origin[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 1985, 3(06): 7 -9 .
[3] CAO Cui-LingLI Sheng-Xiu. Effect of Nitrogen Level on the Photosynthetic Rate, NR Activity and the Contents of Nucleic Acid of Wheat Leaf in the Stage of Reproduction[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2003, 20(03): 319 -324 .
[4] SONG Li-Ying TAN Zheng GAO Feng DENG Shu-Yan. Advances in in vitro Culture of Cucurbitaceae in China[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2004, 21(03): 360 -366 .
[5] Shi Jian ming;Gui Yao-lin and Zhu Zhi-qing. Observation on Amitosis of Sugarbeet (Beta vulgaris) Petiole during Dedifferentiation in Vitro[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 1989, 6(03): 155 .
[6] LI Jun-De YANG Jian WANG Yu-Fei. Aquatic Plants in the Miocene Shanwang Flora[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2000, 17(专辑): 261 .
[7] HUANG Ben-Hong. Late Paleozoic Flora in Nei Mongol Plateau[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2000, 17(专辑): 172 -178 .
[8] XU Jing-Xian WANG Yu-Fei YANG Jian PU Guang-Rong ZHANG Cui-Fen. Advances in the Research of Tertiary Flora and Climate in Yunnan[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2000, 17(专辑): 84 -94 .
[9] Sun Zhen-xiao Xia Guang-min Chen Hui-min. Karyotype Analysis of Psathyrostachys juncea[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 1995, 12(01): 56 .
[10] Yunpu Zheng;Jiancheng Zhao * ;Bingchang Zhang;Lin Li;Yuanming Zhang . Advances on Ecological Studies of Algae and Mosses in Biological Soil Crust[J]. Chin Bull Bot, 2009, 44(03): 371 -378 .