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Title: Coarse-resolution satellite images overestimate urbanization effects on vegetation spring phenology
Authors: Tian, J 
Zhu, X 
Wu, J
Shen, MG
Chen, J
Issue Date: 2020
Source: Remote sensing, 1 Jan. 2020, v. 12, no. 1, 117, p. 1-19
Abstract: Numerous investigations of urbanization effects on vegetation spring phenology using satellite images have reached a consensus that vegetation spring phenology in urban areas occurs earlier than in surrounding rural areas. Nevertheless, the magnitude of this rural-urban difference is quite different among these studies, especially for studies over the same areas, which implies large uncertainties. One possible reason is that the satellite images used in these studies have different spatial resolutions from 30 m to 1 km. In this study, we investigated the impact of spatial resolution on the rural-urban difference of vegetation spring phenology using satellite images at different spatial resolutions. To be exact, we first generated a dense 10 m NDVI time series through harmonizing Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 images by data fusion method, and then resampled the 10 m time series to coarser resolutions from 30 m to 8 km to simulate images at different resolutions. Afterwards, to quantify urbanization effects, vegetation spring phenology at each resolution was extracted by a widely used tool, TIMESAT. Last, we calculated the difference between rural and urban areas using an urban extent map derived from NPP VIIRS nighttime light data. Our results reveal: (1) vegetation spring phenology in urban areas happen earlier than rural areas no matter which spatial resolution from 10 m to 8 km is used, (2) the rural-urban difference in vegetation spring phenology is amplified with spatial resolution, i.e., coarse satellite images overestimate the urbanization effects on vegetation spring phenology, and (3) the underlying reason of this overestimation is that the majority of urban pixels in coarser images have higher diversity in terms of spring phenology dates, which leads to spring phenology detected from coarser NDVI time series earlier than the actual dates. This study indicates that spatial resolution is an important factor that affects the accuracy of the assessment of urbanization effects on vegetation spring phenology. For future studies, we suggest that satellite images with a fine spatial resolution are more appropriate to explore urbanization effects on vegetation spring phenology if vegetation species in urban areas is very diverse.
Keywords: Urbanization effects
Vegetation spring phenology
Spatial resolution
Satellite image
Time series
Publisher: Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI)
Journal: Remote sensing 
EISSN: 2072-4292
DOI: 10.3390/rs12010117
Rights: © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
The following publication Tian, J.; Zhu, X.; Wu, J.; Shen, M.; Chen, J. Coarse-Resolution Satellite Images Overestimate Urbanization Effects on Vegetation Spring Phenology. Remote Sens. 2020, 12, 117 is available at
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