Partial least squares (PLS) regression models are widely applied in spectroscopy to estimate biochemical components through hyperspectral reflected information. To build PLS regression models based on informative spectral bands, rather than strongly collinear bands contained in the full spectrum, is essential for upholding the performance of models. Yet no consensus has ever been reached on how to select informative bands, even though many techniques have been proposed for estimating plant properties using the vast array of hyperspectral reflectance. In this study, we designed a series of virtual experiments by introducing a dummy variable (Cd
) with convertible specific absorption coefficients (SAC) into the well-accepted leaf reflectance PROSPECT-4 model for evaluating popularly adopted informative bands selection techniques, including stepwise-PLS, genetic algorithms PLS (GA-PLS) and PLS with uninformative variable elimination (UVE-PLS). Such virtual experiments have clearly defined responsible wavelength regions related to the dummy input variable, providing objective criteria for model evaluation. Results indicated that although all three techniques examined may estimate leaf biochemical contents efficiently, in most cases the selected bands, unfortunately, did not exactly match known absorption features, casting doubts on their general applicability. The GA-PLS approach was comparatively more efficient at accurately locating the informative bands (with physical and biochemical mechanisms) for estimating leaf biochemical properties and is, therefore, recommended for further applications. Through this study, we have provided objective evaluations of the potential of PLS regressions, which should help to understand the pros and cons of PLS regression models for estimating vegetation biochemical parameters.
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