EGU21-3087, updated on 03 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Comparing in situ phenology and remotely derived phenometrics across ecosystems

Alison Donnelly1, Rong Yu1, Katherine Jones2, Michael Belitz3, Bonan Li4, Katharyn Duffy5, Xiaoyang Zhang6, Jianmin Wang6, Bijan Seyednasrollah5, Kathy Gerst7, Daijiang Li8,9, Youssef Kaddoura10, Kai Zhu11, Jeffrey Morisette12, Colette Ramey13, and Kathleen Smith13
Alison Donnelly et al.
  • 1University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Geography, Milwaukee, United States of America (
  • 2National Ecological Observatory Network, Boulder, CO 80301, USA
  • 3Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, FL 32611, USA
  • 4Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University, OR 97331, USA
  • 5School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems, Northern Arizona University, AZ 86001, USA
  • 6Department of Geography, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA
  • 7School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, AZ 85721, USA
  • 8Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, LA 70802, USA
  • 9Center for Computation & Technology, Louisiana State University, LA 70802, USA
  • 10Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, FL 32603, USA
  • 11Department of Environmental Studies, University of California Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
  • 12Department of the Interior, National Invasive Species Council, Fort Collins, CO 80525, USA
  • 13Department of Biology-Botany, Metropolitan State University of Denver, CO 80217, USA

The use of satellite sensors, near-surface cameras and other remote methods of monitoring vegetation phenology at landscape and higher scales has become increasingly common. These technologies provide a means to determine the timing of phenophases and growing season length at different spatial resolutions; coverage that is not attainable by human observers. However, in situ ground observations are necessary to validate remotely derived phenometrics. Despite increased knowledge and expertise there still remains the persistent challenge of reconciling ground observations at the individual plant level with remotely sensed (RS) phenometrics at landscape or larger scales. Here, we compared the timing of in situ phenophase estimates (spring and autumn) with a range of corresponding remote sensing (MODIS, VIIRS, PhenoCam) phenometrics across five terrestrial sites in the USA’s National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The sites represent a range of ecosystem types including, deciduous forest (Harvard Forest, MA), dry scrubland (Onaqui, UT), evergreen forest (Abby Road, WA) and seasonal wetlands (Disney Wilderness Preserve and Ordway-Swisher Biological Station, FL) focusing on a three year period from 2017-2019. Our main objective was compare a range of co-located RS pheometrics with in situ observations to explore potential reasons for the observed discrepancies and to determine which technologies were more aligned with ground observations. Statistically significant relationships were strongest (p<0.001) for spring phenophases compared to autumn. In general, satellite derived phenometrics tended to be earlier (RMSE 21.7 – 28.4 days) than in situ spring phenology whereas PhenoCam derived phenometrics were later (RMSE 24 days). Overall, discrepancies between in situ and RS phenometrics related to scale, species availability and the short duration of the time-series (3 years). However, as the NEON project progresses these challenges are expected to be reduced as more data become available.

How to cite: Donnelly, A., Yu, R., Jones, K., Belitz, M., Li, B., Duffy, K., Zhang, X., Wang, J., Seyednasrollah, B., Gerst, K., Li, D., Kaddoura, Y., Zhu, K., Morisette, J., Ramey, C., and Smith, K.: Comparing in situ phenology and remotely derived phenometrics across ecosystems, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3087,, 2021.


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