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This paper outlines the first part of a series of research studies to investigate the potential and approaches for using optical remote sensing (RS) to assess vegetation water content. It first analyses why most methods used as approximations of vegetation water content (such as vegetation stress indices), estimation of degree of curing and chlorophyll content are not suitable for retrieving water at leaf level. It then documents the physical basis supporting the use of RS to directly detect vegetation water content in terms of Equivalent Water Thickness (EWT) at leaf level. Using laboratory measurements, the radioactive transfer model PROSPECT and a sensitivity analysis, it shows that short wave infrared (SWIR) is sensitive to EWT but cannot be used alone to retrieve EWT because two other leaf parameters (internal structure and dry matter) also influence leaf reflectance in the SWIR. A combination of SWIR and NIR (only influenced by these two parameters) is necessary to retrieve EWT at leaf level. These results set the basis towards establishing operation techniques for the retrieval of EWT at top-of-canopy and top-of-atmospheric levels.

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Authors: CECCATO P, JRC, SAI, GVM, Ispra (IT);GREGOIRE J-M, JRC, SAI, GVM, Ispra (IT);FLASSE S, University of Greenwich, Natural Resources Institute, Environmental Sciences Department, Chatam Maritime, Kent (GB);TARANTOLA S, JRC, SAI, ISIS, Ispra (IT);JACQUEMOUD S, Universite de Paris, Laboratoire Environnement et Developpement, Paris (FR)
Bibliographic Reference: An article published in: Remote Sensing of Environment, Vol.77 (2001), pp.22-33
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