Improving discrimination of savanna tree species through a multiple-endmember spectral angle mapper approach: Canopy-level analysis

Moses Azong Cho, Pravesh Debba, Renaud Mathieu, Laven Naidoo, Jan Van Aardt, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Differences in within-species phenology and structure are controlled by genetic variation, as well as topography, edaphic properties, and climatic variables across the landscape, and present important challenges to species differentiation with remote sensing. The objectives of this paper are as follows: 1) to evaluate the classification performance of a multiple-endmember spectral angle mapper (SAM) classification approach in discriminating ten common African savanna tree species and 2) to compare the results with the traditional SAM classifier based on a single endmember per species. The canopy spectral reflectance of the tree species ( Acacia nigrescens, Combretum apiculatum , Combretum imberbe, Dichrostachys cinerea, Euclea natalensis, Gymnosporia buxifolia, Lonchocarpus capassa, Pterocarpus rotundifolius, Sclerocarya birrea, and Terminalia sericea) was extracted from airborne hyperspectral imagery that was acquired using the Carnegie Airborne Observatory system over Kruger National Park, South Africa, in May 2008. This study highlights three important phenomena: 1) Intraspecies spectral variability affected the discrimination of savanna tree species with the SAM classifier; 2) the effect of intraspecies spectral variability was minimized by adopting the multiple-endmember approach, e.g., the multiple-endmember approach produced a higher overall accuracy (mean of 54.5% for 20 bootstrapped replicates) when compared to the traditional SAM (mean overall accuracy = 20.5%); and 3) targeted band selection improved the classification of savanna tree species (the mean overall percent accuracy is 57% for 20 bootstrapped replicates). Higher overall classification accuracies were observed for evergreen trees than for deciduous trees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5559438
Pages (from-to)4133-4142
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Band selection
  • hyperspectral remote sensing
  • multiple-endmember approach
  • savanna tree species
  • spectral angle mapper (SAM)
  • spectral variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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