Monitoring vegetation phenology using an infrared-enabled security camera

Anika R. Petach, Michael Toomey, Donald M. Aubrecht, Andrew D. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Sensor-based monitoring of vegetation phenology is being widely used to quantify phenological responses to climate variability and change. Digital repeat photography, in particular, can characterize the seasonality of canopy greenness. However, these data cannot be directly compared to satellite vegetation indices (e.g. NDVI, the normalized difference vegetation index) that require information about vegetation properties at near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths. Here, we develop a new method, using an inexpensive, NIR-enabled camera originally designed for security monitoring, to calculate a "camera NDVI" from sequential visible and visible. +. NIR photographs. We use a lab experiment for proof-of-concept, and then test the method using a year of data from an ongoing field campaign in a mixed temperate forest. Our analysis shows that the seasonal cycle of camera NDVI is almost identical to that of NDVI measured using narrow-band radiometric instruments, or as observed from space by the MODIS platform. This camera NDVI thus provides different information about the state of the canopy than can be obtained using only visible-wavelength imagery. In addition to phenological monitoring, our method should be useful for a variety of applications, including continuous monitoring of plant stress and quantifying vegetation responses to manipulative treatments in large field experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-151
Number of pages9
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
StatePublished - Sep 15 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital repeat photography
  • Near-surface remote sensing
  • Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)
  • Phenology
  • Stress monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Monitoring vegetation phenology using an infrared-enabled security camera'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this