Do agrometeorological data improve optical satellite-based estimations of the herbaceous yield in Sahelian semi-arid ecosystems?

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  • Abdoul Aziz Diouf
  • Pierre Hiernaux
  • Brandt, Martin Stefan
  • Gayane Faye
  • Bakary Djaby
  • Mouhamadou Bamba Diop
  • Jacques André Ndione
  • Bernard Tychon

Quantitative estimates of forage availability at the end of the growing season in rangelands are helpful for pastoral livestock managers and for local, national and regional stakeholders in natural resource management. For this reason, remote sensing data such as the Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (FAPAR) have been widely used to assess Sahelian plant productivity for about 40 years. This study combines traditional FAPAR-based assessments with agrometeorological variables computed by the geospatial water balance program, GeoWRSI, using rainfall and potential evapotranspiration satellite gridded data to estimate the annual herbaceous yield in the semi-arid areas of Senegal. It showed that a machine-learning model combining FAPAR seasonal metrics with various agrometeorological data provided better estimations of the in situ annual herbaceous yield (R2 = 0.69; RMSE = 483 kg·DM/ha) than models based exclusively on FAPAR metrics (R2 = 0.63; RMSE = 550 kg·DM/ha) or agrometeorological variables (R2 = 0.55; RMSE = 585 kg·DM/ha). All the models provided reasonable outputs and showed a decrease in the mean annual yield with increasing latitude, together with an increase in relative inter-annual variation. In particular, the additional use of agrometeorological information mitigated the saturation effects that characterize the plant indices of areas with high plant productivity. In addition, the date of the onset of the growing season derived from smoothed FAPAR seasonal dynamics showed no significant relationship (0.05 p-level) with the annual herbaceous yield across the whole studied area. The date of the onset of rainfall however, was significantly related to the herbaceous yield and its inclusion in fodder biomass models could constitute a significant improvement in forecasting risks of a mass herbaceous deficit at an early stage of the year.

Original languageEnglish
Article number668
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Research areas

  • Cubist, FAPAR, GeoWRSI, Grasslands, Herbaceous annual yield, Land cover class, Sahel, Satellite remote sensing, Senegal, Start of season

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