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Title: Assessing spring phenology of a temperate woodland : a multiscale comparison of ground, unmanned aerial vehicle and Landsat satellite observations
Author: Berra, Elias Fernando
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 0774
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2018
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Vegetation phenology is the study of plant natural life cycle stages. Plant phenological events are related to carbon, energy and water cycles within terrestrial ecosystems, operating from local to global scales. As plant phenology events are highly sensitive to climate fluctuations, the timing of these events has been used as an independent indicator of climate change. The monitoring of forest phenology in a cost-effective manner, at a fine spatial scale and over relatively large areas remains a significant challenge. To address this issue, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) appear to be a potential new platform for forest phenology monitoring. The aim of this research is to assess the potential of UAV data to track the temporal dynamics of spring phenology, from the individual tree to woodland scale, and to cross-compare UAV results against ground and satellite observations, in order to better understand characteristics of UAV data and assess potential for use in validation of satellite-derived phenology. A time series of UAV data were acquired in tandem with an intensive ground campaign during the spring season of 2015, over Hanging Leaves Wood, Northumberland, UK. The radiometric quality of the UAV imagery acquired by two consumer-grade cameras was assessed, in terms of the ability to retrieve reflectance and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), and successfully validated against ground (0.84≤R2≥0.96) and Landsat (0.73≤R2≥0.89) measurements, but only NDVI resulted in stable time series. The start (SOS), middle (MOS) and end (EOS) of spring season dates were estimated at an individual tree-level using UAV time series of NDVI and Green Chromatic Coordinate (GCC), with GCC resulting in a clearer and stronger seasonal signal at a tree crown scale. UAV-derived SOS could be predicted more accurately than MOS and EOS, with an accuracy of less than 1 week for deciduous woodland and within 2 weeks for evergreen. The UAV data were used to map phenological events for individual trees across the whole woodland, demonstrating that contrasting canopy phenological events can occur within the extent of a single Landsat pixel. This accounted for the poor relationships found between UAV- and Landsat-derived phenometrics (R2 < 0.45) in this study. An opportunity is now available to track very fine scale land surface changes over contiguous vegetation communities, information which could improve characterization of vegetation phenology at multiple scales.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: CAPES-Brazil (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available