Response of spectral vegetation indices to a stocking rate experiment in Inner Mongolia, China

Document Type


Publication Date



Geography and Geology


Techniques for mapping and monitoring vegetation status under human disturbance (e.g., grazing livestock) can contribute to sustainable development of grasslands. The main objective of this paper is to investigate whether the effects of differences in grazing intensity (measured by stocking rate (SR)) could be discriminated using in situ spectral data. The experiment was conducted with controlled SRs on the Sino-German experimental farm in the Xilingol grassland, Inner Mongolia, P.R. China. Canopy spectral measurements were made on experimental paddocks that varied by SRs, terrain and management type. Eight vegetation indices (VIs) were calculated from ASD field spectrometer data for each paddock. We modelled the variability within and between paddocks using a linear mixed model to isolate the effect of grazing intensity on VI response. All VIs showed significant negative relationships to grazing intensity that were ameliorated on paddocks with haying compared to traditional direct grazing. The best VIs for detecting differences in paddocks due to the levels of SR were photochemical reflectance index (PRI), broadband normalized difference vegetation index (bNDVI) and narrowband NDVI (nNDVI1). The responses of VIs to vegetation conditions as affected by different SRs offer promise for the use of airborne and satellite remote sensing to map vegetation status and to evaluate the effects of grazing intensities at regional scales.

Link to Published Version