US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Remote Sensing of Environment 84 (2003) 437–456


Knowledge of the distribution of vegetation on the landscape can be used to investigate ecosystem functioning. The sizes and movements of animal populations can be linked to resources provided by different plant species. This paper demonstrates the application of imaging spectroscopy to the study of vegetation in Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone) using spectral feature analysis of data from the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS). AVIRIS data, acquired on August 7, 1996, were calibrated to surface reflectance using a radiative transfer model and field reflectance measurements of a ground calibration site. A spectral library of canopy reflectance signatures was created by averaging pixels of the calibrated AVIRIS data over areas of known forest and nonforest vegetation cover types in Yellowstone. Using continuum removal and least squares fitting algorithms in the US Geological Survey’s Tetracorder expert system, the distributions of these vegetation types were determined by comparing the absorption features of vegetation in the spectral library with the spectra from the AVIRIS data. The 0.68 μm chlorophyll absorption feature and leaf water absorption features, centered near 0.98 and 1.20 μm, were analyzed. Nonforest cover types of sagebrush, grasslands, willows, sedges, and other wetland vegetation were mapped in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. Conifer cover types of lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, Douglas fir, and mixed Engelmann spruce/subalpine fir forests were spectrally discriminated and their distributions mapped in the AVIRIS images. In the Mount Washburn area of Yellowstone, a comparison of the AVIRIS map of forest cover types to a map derived from air photos resulted in an overall agreement of 74.1% (kappa statistic = 0.62).