The Leaf Area Index (LAI) is one of the most frequently applied measures to characterize vegetation and its dynamics and functions with remote sensing. Satellite missions, such as NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) operationally produce global datasets of LAI. Due to their role as an input to large-scale modeling activities, evaluation and verification of such datasets are of high importance. In this context, savannas appear to be underrepresented with regards to their heterogeneous appearance (e.g., tree/grass-ratio, seasonality). Here, we aim to examine the LAI in a heterogeneous savanna ecosystem located in Namibia’s Owamboland during the dry season. Ground measurements of LAI are used to derive a high-resolution LAI model with RapidEye satellite data. This model is related to the corresponding MODIS LAI/FPAR (Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation) scene (MOD15A2) in order to evaluate its performance at the intended annual minimum during the dry season. Based on a field survey we first assessed vegetation patterns from species composition and elevation for 109 sites. Secondly, we measured in situ
LAI to quantitatively estimate the available vegetation (mean = 0.28). Green LAI samples were then empirically modeled (LAImodel
) with high resolution RapidEye imagery derived Difference Vegetation Index (DVI) using a linear regression (R2
= 0.71). As indicated by several measures of model performance, the comparison with MOD15A2 revealed moderate consistency mostly due to overestimation by the aggregated LAImodel
. Model constraints aside, this study may point to important issues for MOD15A2 in savannas concerning the underlying MODIS Land Cover product (MCD12Q1) and a potential adjustment by means of the MODIS Burned Area product (MCD45A1).
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