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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Research project: MERIS Extended Validation and Exploratory Approach for High Resolution Optical Sensor

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The Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) has fine spectral resolution, moderate spatial resolution and a three-day repeat cycle, making it a potentially valuable sensor for the measurement and monitoring of terrestrial environments at regional to global scales.

The red edge, which results from an abrupt reflectance change in red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths has a location that is related directly to the chlorophyll content of vegetation. A new index called the MERIS terrestrial chlorophyll index (MTCI) uses data in three red/NIR wavebands centered at 681.25, 708.75 and 753.75 nm (bands 8, 9 and 10 in the MERIS standard band setting).

The MTCI is easy to calculate and can be automated. Preliminary indirect evaluation using model, field and MERIS data suggested its sensitivity to chlorophyll content, notably at high values. As a result this index is now a standard level-2 product of the European Space Agency. We used two approaches to investigate direct MTCI evaluation.

First, MTCI/chlorophyll content relationships were determined using a chlorophyll content surrogate for sites in southern Vietnam and second, MTCI/chlorophyll relationships were determined using actual chlorophyll content for sites in the New Forest, UK and for plots in the greenhouse. Forests in southern Vietnam were contaminated heavily with herbicides during the Vietnam War. This led to a long term decrease in chlorophyll content within forests that have long since regained full canopy cover. The amount of herbicide dropped onto the forests between 1965 and 1971 was used as a surrogate (inverse) for contemporary chlorophyll content and was related to current MTCI at selected forest sites. The resulting relationship was both strong and negative. Further per-pixel investigation of the MTCI/herbicide concentration relationship is under way for large forest regions.

In the second approach MTCI was related directly to chlorophyll content at two scales and the initial relationships were both of strong and positive. Further plans involve MTCI evaluation at local, regional and eventually global scales.

Related research groups

Global Environmental Change and Earth Observation
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