Evaluating Water Controls on Vegetation Growth in the Semi-Arid Sahel Using Field and Earth Observation Data

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Water loss is a crucial factor for vegetation in the semi-arid Sahel region of Africa. Global satellite-driven estimates of plant CO2 uptake (gross primary productivity, GPP) have been found to not accurately account for Sahelian conditions, particularly the impact of canopy water stress. Here, we identify the main biophysical limitations that induce canopy water stress in Sahelian vegetation and evaluate the relationships between field data and Earth observation-derived spectral products for up-scaling GPP. We find that plant-available water and vapor pressure deficit together control the GPP of Sahelian vegetation through their impact on the greening and browning phases. Our results show that a multiple linear regression (MLR) GPP model that combines the enhanced vegetation index, land surface temperature, and the short-wave infrared reflectance (Band 7, 2105–2155 nm) of the moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer satellite sensor was able to explain between 88% and 96% of the variability of eddy covariance flux tower GPP at three Sahelian sites (overall = 89%). The MLR GPP model presented here is potentially scalable at a relatively high spatial and temporal resolution. Given the scarcity of field data on CO2 fluxes in the Sahel, this scalability is important due to the low number of flux towers in the region.


External organisations
  • University of Montpellier
  • University of Copenhagen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography


  • Sahel, Drought, gross pri, Earth observation, Plant available water, Soil moisture, Vapor pressure deficit, Plant stress, Greening, Browning
Original languageEnglish
Article number294
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Mar 21
Publication categoryResearch

Total downloads

No data available

Related research output

Abdulhakim Abdi, 2017 Feb, Lund: Lund University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science. 180 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

View all (1)