Using ordinary digital cameras in place of near-infrared sensors to derive vegetation indicies for phenology studies of High Arctic vegetation

Helen Anderson, Lennart Nilsen, Hans Tømmervik, Stein Rune Karlsen, Shin Nagai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


To remotely monitor vegetation at temporal and spatial resolutions unobtainable with satellite-based systems, near remote sensing systems must be employed. To this extent we used Normalized Difference Vegetation Index NDVI sensors and normal digital cameras to monitor the greenness of six different but common and widespread High Arctic plant species/groups (graminoid/Salix polaris; Cassiope tetragona; Luzula spp.; Dryas octopetala/S. polaris; C. tetragona/D. octopetala; graminoid/bryophyte) during an entire growing season in central Svalbard. Of the three greenness indices (2G_RBi, Channel G% and GRVI) derived from digital camera images, GRVI showed the most significant correlations with NDVI among all vegetation types. The GRVI (Green-Red Vegetation Index) is calculated as (GDN − RDN)/(GDN + RDN) where GDN is Green digital number and RDN is Red digital number. Both NDVI and GRVI successfully recorded timings of the green-up and plant growth periods and senescence in all six plant species/groups. Some differences in phenology between plant species/groups occurred: the mid-season growing period reached a sharp peak in NDVI and GRVI values where graminoids were present, but a prolonged period of higher values occurred with the other plant species/groups. In particular, plots containing C. tetragona experienced increased NDVI and GRVI values towards the end of the season. NDVI measured with active and passive sensors were strongly correlated (r > 0.70) for the same plant species/groups. Although NDVI recorded by the active sensor was consistently lower than that of the passive sensor for the same plant species/groups, differences were small and likely due to the differing light sources used. Thus, it is evident that GRVI and NDVI measured with active and passive sensors captured similar vegetation attributes of High Arctic plants. Hence, inexpensive digital cameras can be used with passive and active NDVI devices to establish a near remote sensing network for monitoring changing vegetation dynamics in the High Arctic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number847
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number19
Publication statusFirst published - 16 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • NDVI
  • greenness index
  • active sensor
  • passive sensor
  • phenology
  • vegetation


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