A continuous satellite-derived measure of global terrestrial primary production

Steven W. Running, Ramakrishna R. Nemani, Faith Ann Heinsch, Maosheng Zhao, Matt Reeves, Hirofumi Hashimoto

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1790 Scopus citations


Until recently, continuous monitoring of global vegetation productivity has not been possible because of technological limitations. This article introduces a new satellite-driven monitor of the global biosphere that regularly computes daily gross primary production (GPP) and annual net primary production (NPP) at 1-kilometer (km) resolution over 109,782,756 km2 of vegetated land surface. We summarize the history of global NPP science, as well as the derivation of this calculation, and current data production activity. The first data on NPP from the EOS (Earth Observing System) MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) sensor are presented with different types of validation. We offer examples of how this new type of data set can serve ecological science, land management, and environmental policy. To enhance the use of these data by non-specialists, we are now producing monthly anomaly maps for GPP and annual NPP that compare the current value with an 18-year average value for each pixel, clearly identifying regions where vegetation growth is higher or lower than normal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-560
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth Science Enterprise has funded our MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) research since 1984 with multiple awards, particularly the NAS5-31368 MODIS contract. S. W. R. acknowledges a McMaster fellowship for support at the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Division of Land and Water in Australia during the writing of this article. We also acknowledge the MODIS processing team, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who operate the data system for EOS (Earth Observing System). Andrew Neuschwander, at the University of Montana’s Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, provided color images.

FundersFunder number
National Aeronautics and Space Administration


    • Biosphere
    • Carbon cycles
    • MODIS
    • Net primary production
    • Terrestrial remote sensing


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