Remote sensing is a potentially powerful technology with which to extrapolate eddy covariance-based gross primary production (GPP) to continental scales. In support of this concept, we used meteorological and flux data from the AmeriFlux network and Support Vector Machine (SVM), an inductive machine learning technique, to develop and apply a predictive GPP model for the conterminous U.S. In the following four-step process, we first trained the SVM to predict flux-based GPP from 33 AmeriFlux sites between 2000 and 2003 using three remotely-sensed variables (land surface temperature, enhanced vegetation index (EVI), and land cover) and one ground-measured variable (incident shortwave radiation). Second, we evaluated model performance by predicting GPP for 24 available AmeriFlux sites in 2004. In this independent evaluation, the SVM predicted GPP with a root mean squared error (RMSE) of 1.87 gC/m2/day and an R2 of 0.71. Based on annual total GPP at 15 AmeriFlux sites for which the number of 8-day averages in 2004 was no less than 67% (30 out of a possible 45), annual SVM GPP prediction error was 32.1% for non-forest ecosystems and 22.2% for forest ecosystems, while the standard Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer GPP product (MOD17) had an error of 50.3% for non-forest ecosystems and 21.5% for forest ecosystems, suggesting that the regionally tuned SVM performed better than the standard global MOD17 GPP for non-forest ecosystems but had similar performance for forest ecosystems. The most important explanatory factor for GPP prediction was EVI, removal of which increased GPP RMSE by 0.85 gC/m2/day in a cross-validation experiment. Third, using the SVM driven by remote sensing data including incident shortwave radiation, we predicted 2004 conterminous U.S. GPP and found that results were consistent with expected spatial and temporal patterns. Finally, as an illustration of SVM GPP for ecological applications, we estimated maximum light use efficiency (emax), one of the most important factors for standard light use efficiency models, for the conterminous U.S. by integrating the 2004 SVM GPP with the MOD17 GPP algorithm. We found that emax varied from ∼ 0.86 gC/MJ in grasslands to ∼ 1.56 gC/MJ in deciduous forests, while MOD17 emax was 0.68 gC/MJ for grasslands and 1.16 gC/MJ for deciduous forests, suggesting that refinements of MOD17 emax may be beneficial.
- Gross primary production
- Light use efficiency
- Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)
- Support Vector Machines