Discrimination and biomass estimation of co-existing C3 and C4 grass functional types over time : a view from space.
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The co-existence of C3 and C4 grass species significantly influence their spatio-temporal variations of biochemical cycling, productivity (i.e. biomass) and role in provision of ecosystem goods and services. Consequently, the discrimination of the two species is critical in understanding their spatial distribution and productivity. Such discrimination is particularly valuable for accounting for their socio-economic and environmental contributions, as well as decisions related to climate change mitigation. Due to the growing popularity of remotely sensed approaches, this study sought to discriminate the two grass species and determine their AGB using new generation sensors. Specifically, the potential of Landsat 8, Sentinel 2 and Worldview 2, with improved sensing characteristics were tested in achieving the above objectives. Generally, the results demonstrate the suitability of the adopted sensors in the discrimination and determination of C3 and C4 AGB using Discriminant Analysis and Sparse Partial Least Squares Regression models. Using multi-date Sentinel 2 data, the study established that winter period (May) was the most suitable for discriminating the two grass species. On the other hand, the winter fall (August) was found to be the least optimal period for the two grass species discrimination. The study also established that the amount of AGB for C3 and C4 were higher in winter and summer, respectively; a variability attributed to elevation and rainfall. The study concludes that Sentinel 2 dataset, although had weaker performance than Worldview 2; it offers a valuable opportunity in understanding the C3 and C4 spatial distribution within a landscape; hence useful in understanding both temporal and multi-temporal distribution of the two grass species. Successful seasonal characterization of C3 and C4 AGB allows for inferences on their contribution to forage availability and fire regimes; therefore, this contributes to the development of well-informed conservation strategies, which can lead to sustainable utilization of rangelands, especially in relation to the changing climate.