Remote sensing of terrestrial vegetation has been successful thanks to the unique spectral characteristics of green vegetation, low reflectance in red and high reflectance in Near-InfraRed (NIR). These spectral characteristics were used to develop vegetation indices, including Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). However, the NIR absorption by water and light scattering from suspended particles reduces the practical application of such indices in aquatic vegetation studies, especially for the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) that grows below water surface. We experimentally tested if NDVI can be used to depict canopies of aquatic plants in shallow waters. A 100-gallonoutdoor tank was lined with black pond liners, a black panel or SAV shoots were mounted on the bottom, and filled with water up to 0.5 m. We used a GER 1500 spectroradiometer to collect spectral data over floating waterhyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes
) and also over the tanks that contain SAV and black panel at varying water depths. The measured upwelling radiance was converted to % reflectance; and we integrated the hyperspectral reflectance to match the Red and NIR bands of three satellite sensors: Landsat 7 ETM, SPOT 5 HRG, and ASTER. NDVI values ranged 0.6-0.65 when the SAV canopy was at the water level, then they decreased linearly (slope of 0.013 NDVI/meter) with water depth increases in clear water. When corrected for water attenuation using the data obtained from the black panel, the NDVI values significantly increased at all depths that we tested (0.1 – 0.5 m). Our results suggest the conventional NDVI: (1) can be used to depict SAV canopies at water surface; (2) is not a good indicator for SAV that is adapted to live underwater or other aquatic plants that are submerged during flooding even at shallow waters (0.3 m); and (3) the index values can significantly improve if information on spectral reflectance attenuation caused by water volume increases is collected simultaneously through ground-truthing and integrated.