Narrow band vegetation indices overcome the saturation problem in biomass estimation

O. Mutanga*, A. K. Skidmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

430 Citations (Scopus)


Remotely sensed vegetation indices such as NDVI, computed using the red and near infrared bands have been used to estimate pasture biomass. These indices are of limited value since they saturate in dense vegetation. In this study, we evaluated the potential of narrow band vegetation indices for characterizing the biomass of Cenchrus ciliaris grass measured at high canopy density. Three indices were tested: Modified Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (MNDVI), Simple Ratio (SR) and Transformed Vegetation Index (TVI) involving all possible two band combinations between 350 nm and 2500 nm. In addition, we evaluated the potential of the red edge position in estimating biomass at full canopy cover. Results indicated that the standard NDVI involving a strong chlorophyll absorption band in the red region and a near infrared band performed poorly in estimating biomass (R2 = 0.26). The MNDVIs involving a combination of narrow bands in the shorter wavelengths of the red edge (700-750 nm) and longer wavelengths of the red edge (750-780 nm), yielded higher correlations with biomass (mean R2 = 0.77 for the highest 20 narrow band NDVIs). When the three vegetation indices were compared, SR yielded the highest correlation coefficients with biomass as compared to narrow band NDVI and TVI (average R2 = 0.80, 0.77 and 0.77 for the first 20 ranked SR, NDVI and TVI respectively). The red edge position yielded comparable results to the narrow band vegetation indices involving the red edge bands. These results indicate that at high canopy density, pasture biomass may be more accurately estimated by vegetation indices based on wavelengths located in the red edge than the standard NDVI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3999-4014
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


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