It is very difficult and complex to acquire photosynthetic vegetation (PV) and non-PV (NPV) fractions (fPV
) using multispectral satellite sensors because estimations of fPV
are influenced by many factors, such as background-noise interference of pixel-, spatial-, and spectral-scale effects. In this study, comparisons between Sentinel-2A Multispectral Instrument (S2 MSI), Landsat-8 Operational Land Imager (L8 OLI), and GF1 Wide Field View (GF1 WFV) sensors for retrieving sparse photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic vegetation coverage are presented. The analysis employed a linear spectral-mixture model (LSMM) and nonlinear spectral-mixture model (NSMM) to unmix pixels with different spectral and spatial resolution images based on field endmembers; the estimated endmember fractions were later validated with reference to fraction measurements. The results demonstrated that: (1) with higher spatial and spectral resolution, the S2 MSI sensor had a clear advantage for retrieving PV and NPV fractions compared to L8 OLI and GF1 WFV sensors; (2) through incorporating more red edge (RE) and near-infrared (NIR) bands, the accuracy of NPV fraction estimation could be greatly improved; (3) nonlinear spectral mixing effects were not obvious on the 10–30 m spatial scale for desert vegetation; (4) in arid regions, a shadow endmember is a significant factor for sparse vegetation coverage estimated with remote-sensing data. The estimated NPV fractions were especially affected by the shadow effects and could increase root mean square by 50%. The utilized approaches in the study could effectively assess the performance of major multispectral sensors to extract fPV
through the novel method of spectral-mixture analysis.
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