Spatially detailed retrievals of spring phenology from single-season high-resolution image time series

Anton Vrieling*, Andrew K. Skidmore, Tiejun Wang, Michele Meroni, Bruno J. Ens, Kees Oosterbeek, Brian O’Connor, Roshanak Darvishzadeh, Marco Heurich, Anita Shepherd, Marc Paganini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Vegetation indices derived from satellite image time series have been extensively used to estimate the timing of phenological events like season onset. Medium spatial resolution (≥250m) satellite sensors with daily revisit capability are typically employed for this purpose. In recent years, phenology is being retrieved at higher resolution (≤30m) in response to increasing availability of high-resolution satellite data. To overcome the reduced acquisition frequency of such data, previous attempts involved fusion between high- and medium-resolution data, or combinations of multi-year acquisitions in a single phenological reconstruction. The objectives of this study are to demonstrate that phenological parameters can now be retrieved from single-season high-resolution time series, and to compare these retrievals against those derived from multi-year high-resolution and single-season medium-resolution satellite data. The study focuses on the island of Schiermonnikoog, the Netherlands, which comprises a highly-dynamic saltmarsh, dune vegetation, and agricultural land. Combining NDVI series derived from atmospherically-corrected images from RapidEye (5m-resolution) and the SPOT5 Take5 experiment (10m-resolution) acquired between March and August 2015, phenological parameters were estimated using a function fitting approach. We then compared results with phenology retrieved from four years of 30 m Landsat 8 OLI data, and single-year 100 m Proba-V and 250 m MODIS temporal composites of the same period. Retrieved phenological parameters from combined RapidEye/SPOT5 displayed spatially consistent results and a large spatial variability, providing complementary information to existing vegetation community maps. Retrievals that combined four years of Landsat observations into a single synthetic year were affected by the inclusion of years with warmer spring temperatures, whereas adjustment of the average phenology to 2015 observations was only feasible for a few pixels due to cloud cover around phenological transition dates. The Proba-V and MODIS phenology retrievals scaled poorly relative to their high-resolution equivalents, indicating that medium-resolution phenology retrievals need to be interpreted with care, particularly in landscapes with fine-scale land cover variability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Phenology
  • Multi-emporal analysis
  • NDVI time series
  • Multi-source imagery
  • Spatial resolution
  • Landscape variability
  • Saltmarsh
  • Agriculture
  • Multi-temporal analysis


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