Ecosystem structure throughout the brazilian amazon from landsat observations and automated spectral unmixing

Gregory P. Asner, David E. Knapp, Amanda N. Cooper, Mercedes M.C. Bustamante, Lydia P. Olander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The Brazilian Amazon forest and cerrado savanna encompasses a region of enormous ecological, climatic, and land-use variation. Satellite remote sensing is the only tractable means to measure the biophysical attributes of vegetation throughout this region, but coarse-resolution sensors cannot resolve the details of forest structure and land-cover change deemed critical to many land-use, ecological, and conservation-oriented studies. The Carnegie Landsat Analysis System (CLAS) was developed for studies of forest and savanna structural attributes using widely available Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) satellite data and advanced methods in automated spectral mixture analysis. The methodology of the CLAS approach is presented along with a study of its sensitivity to atmospheric correction errors. CLAS is then applied to a mosaic of Landsat images spanning the years 1999-2001 as a proof of concept and capability for large-scale, very high resolution mapping of the Amazon and bordering cerrado savanna. A total of 197 images were analyzed for fractional photosynthetic vegetation (PV), nonphotosynthetic vegetation (NPV), and bare substrate covers using a probabilistic spectral mixture model. Results from areas without significant land use, clouds, cloud shadows, and water bodies were compiled by the Brazilian state and vegetation class to understand the baseline structural typology of forests and savannas using this new system. Conversion of the satellite-derived PV data to woody canopy gap fraction was made to highlight major differences by vegetation and ecosystem classes. The results indicate important differences in fractional photosynthetic cover and canopy gap fraction that can now be accounted for in future studies of land-cover change, ecological variability, and biogeochemical processes across the Amazon and bordering cerrado regions of Brazil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEarth Interactions
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Amazon
  • Cerrado
  • Forest structure
  • Gap fraction
  • Spectral mixture analysis
  • Tropical forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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