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Assessing the Impacts of Species Composition on the Accuracy of Mapping Chlorophyll Content in Heterogeneous Ecosystems

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Author: Lu, Bing
Author: He, Yuhong
Chlorophyll is an essential vegetation pigment influencing plant photosynthesis rate and growth conditions. Remote sensing images have been widely used for mapping vegetation chlorophyll content in different ecosystems (e.g., farmlands, forests, grasslands, and wetlands) for evaluating vegetation growth status and productivity of these ecosystems. Compared to farmlands and forests that are more homogeneous in terms of species composition, grasslands and wetlands are more heterogeneous with highly mixed species (e.g., various grass, forb, and shrub species). Different species contribute differently to the ecosystem services, thus, monitoring species-specific chlorophyll content is critical for better understanding their growth status, evaluating ecosystem functions, and supporting ecosystem management (e.g., control invasive species). However, previous studies in mapping chlorophyll content in heterogeneous ecosystems have rarely estimated species-specific chlorophyll content, which was partially due to the limited spatial resolution of remote sensing images commonly used in the past few decades for recognizing different species. In addition, many previous studies have used one universal model built with data of all species for mapping chlorophyll of the entire study area, which did not fully consider the impacts of species composition on the accuracy of chlorophyll estimation (i.e., establishing species-specific chlorophyll estimation models may generate higher accuracy). In this study, helicopter-acquired high-spatial resolution hyperspectral images were acquired for species classification and species-specific chlorophyll content estimation. Four estimation models, including a universal linear regression (LR) model (i.e., built with data of all species), species-specific LR models (i.e., built with data of each species, respectively), a universal random forest regression (RFR) model, and species-specific RFR models, were compared to determine their performance in mapping chlorophyll and to evaluate the impacts of species composition. The results show that species-specific models performed better than the universal models, especially for species with fewer samples in the dataset. The best performed species-specific models were then used to generate species-specific chlorophyll content maps using the species classification results. Impacts of species composition on the retrieval of chlorophyll content were further assessed to support future chlorophyll mapping in heterogeneous ecosystems and ecosystem management.
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