Calibrating vegetation phenology from Sentinel-2 using eddy covariance, PhenoCam, and PEP725 networks across Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Vegetation phenology obtained from time series of remote sensing data is relevant for a range of ecological applications. The freely available Sentinel-2 imagery at a 10 m spatial resolution with a ~ 5-day repeat cycle provides an opportunity to map vegetation phenology at an unprecedented fine spatial scale. To facilitate the production of a Europe-wide Copernicus Land Monitoring Sentinel-2 based phenology dataset, we design and evaluate a framework based on a comprehensive set of ground observations, including eddy covariance gross primary production (GPP), PhenoCam green chromatic coordinate (GCC), and phenology phases from the Pan-European Phenological database (PEP725). We test three vegetation indices (VI) — the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), the two-band enhanced vegetation index (EVI2), and the plant phenology index (PPI) — regarding their capability to track the seasonal trajectories of GPP and GCC and their performance in reflecting spatial variabilities of the corresponding GPP and GCC phenometrics, i.e., start of season (SOS) and end of season (EOS). We find that for GPP phenology, PPI performs the best, in particular for evergreen coniferous forest areas where the seasonal variations in leaf area are small and snow is prevalent during wintertime. Results are inconclusive for GCC phenology, for which no index is consistently better than the others. When comparing to PEP725 phenology phases, PPI and EVI2 perform better than NDVI regarding the spatial correlation and consistency (i.e., lower standard deviation). We also link VI phenometrics at various amplitude thresholds to the PEP725 phenophases and find that PPI SOS at 25% and PPI EOS at 15% provide the best matches with the ground-observed phenological stages. Finally, we demonstrate that applying bidirectional reflectance distribution function correction to Sentinel-2 reflectance is a step that can be excluded for phenology mapping in Europe.


External organisations
  • Wuhan University
  • Technical University of Denmark
  • Ghent University
  • Interaction Sol Plante Atmosphère (ISPA)
  • Central Institution for Meteorology and Geodynamics
  • University of Copenhagen
  • Flemish Institute for Technological Research
  • European Environment Agency (EEA)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography


  • Europe, EVI2, Gross primary production (GPP), NDVI, PEP725, PhenoCam, Plant phenology index (PPI), Sentinel-2, Vegetation phenology
Original languageEnglish
Article number112456
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jul
Publication categoryResearch