Review Article

Challenges and opportunities in the use of remote sensing for C3 and C4 grass species discrimination and mapping

Published in: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Volume 29, issue 2, 2012 , pages: 47–61
DOI: 10.2989/10220119.2012.694120
Author(s): C AdjorloloSchool of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, South Africa, O MutangaSchool of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, South Africa, MA ChoSchool of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, South Africa, R IsmailSchool of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, South Africa

Abstract

Changes in the composition of plant functional type (PFT) activities are expected to accompany a changing climate. In tropical montane grasslands, such changes are predicted to follow shifts in the percentage cover and abundance of species following the C3 and C4 photosynthetic pathways. Reliable methods of detecting impacts of such changes on biomass and forage nutrient quality will likely provide a synoptic scale link between carbon sequestration, nutrient cycles and environmental change. Remote sensing approaches provide efficient methods to assess changes in vegetation composition quickly and are efficient for assessing vegetation in large areas. Multitemporal data obtained using broadband multispectral instruments have been used inconsistently to discriminate C3 and C4 grasslands and to draw some inferences. Advancements in narrowband hyperspectral systems are expected to offer greater potential for accurate mapping of C3 and C4 composition in grasslands. This paper presents an overview of the uses of optical remote sensing for C3 and C4 discrimination, which is consistent with the PFT concept used in land-surface modeling schemes. This review describes the structural properties and biochemical characteristics that affect C3 and C4 grass reflectance. It highlights critical limitations and evaluates the potential of remote sensing approaches used for C3 and C4 studies.

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