Fodder Biomass Monitoring in Sahelian Rangelands Using Phenological Metrics from FAPAR Time Series

From: Diouf, A.A., Brandt, M., Verger, A., Jarroudi, M.E., Djaby, B., Fensholt, R., Ndione, J.A., Tychon, B., 2015. Fodder Biomass Monitoring in Sahelian Rangelands Using Phenological Metrics from FAPAR Time Series. Remote Sensing 7, 9122–9148. doi:10.3390/rs70709122

Livestock farming constitutes the most widespread human activity and the dominant land use in rangeland ecosystems. At a global scale, it contributes 40% of the agricultural gross domestic product, and provides income for more than 1.3 billion people and nourishment for at least 800 million food-insecure people. In particular for the West African Sahel, livestock constitutes the first renewable resource and is mainly characterized by an extensive use of pastures in rangelands.


Since 1987 the Centre de Suivi Ecologique (CSE) operationally estimates the total annual biomass in Senegal in order to monitor the fodder availability of the national pastoral rangelands. Field data is collected along 1 km transects at 24 sites at the end of the wet season. Here, herbaceous and woody leaf biomass is measured and summed to the total available fodder biomass. This is done each year since 1987.

cse2 cse1


Using a linear regression with satellite images, the field data is projected to whole Senegal and gives stakeholders an estimation on the quantity and distribution of fodder biomass. Between 1987 and 1999, this method was implemented using the seasonal integrated NDVI (i.e., seasonal weighted average) from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites acquired in Local Area Coverage (LAC) format at the CSE receiving station in Dakar. Since 2000, the 1-km SPOT-VEGETATION NDVI have been used.

In this context, we developed a new operational system for monitoring total fodder biomass, including both herbaceous and woody leaf biomass. The proposed method is based on multiple linear regression models using phenological variables derived from the seasonal dynamics of the FAPAR SPOT-VEGETATION time series and ground measurements of total biomass production collected in different Sahelian ecosystems in Senegal over 15 years.


A model with three variables – large seasonal integral (LINTG), length of growing season and end of season decreasing rate – performed best (MAE = 605 kg DM/ha; R² = 0.68) across Sahelian ecosystems in Senegal (data for the period 1999-2013). A model with annual maximum (PEAK) and start date of season showed similar performances (MAE = 625 kg DM/ha; R² = 0.64), allowing a timely estimation of forage availability. The subdivision of the study area using metrics related to ecosystem properties increased overall accuracy (MAE = 489.21 kg DM/ha; R² = 0.77). LINTG was the main explanatory variable for woody rangelands, whereas for areas dominated by herbaceous vegetation it was the PEAK metric. The proposed approach outperformed the established single-predictor model (MAE = 818 kg DM/ha and R² = 0.51) and should improve the operational monitoring of forage resources in Sahelian rangelands.


In the future, such early warning models should enable stakeholders to take decisions as early as September (current year as biomass shortage) with regard to livestock by triggering protocols designed for livestock management (e.g., Opération de Sauvegarde du Bétail ) in Senegal.

see the full document here: MDPI

Text and Figures: A.A. Diouf; Fotos: M. Brandt

Modeling Soil and Woody Vegetation in the Senegalese Sahel in the Context of Environmental Change

We have another interesting article about environmental change in the Sahel online. For this article, we used a Random Forest classifier and remote sensing products, to model a soil map in the Senegalese Sahel. If people are interested, I can put the R code online.

Brandt, M.; Grau, T.; Mbow, C.; Samimi, C. Modeling Soil and Woody Vegetation in the Senegalese Sahel in the Context of Environmental Change. Land 20143, 770-792.

it’s open access:

Abstract: Climatic stress and anthropogenic disturbances have caused significant environmental changes in the Sahel. In this context, the importance of soil is often underrepresented. Thus, we analyze and discuss the interdependency of soil and vegetation by classifying soil types and its woody cover for a region in the Senegalese Ferlo. Clustering of 28 soil parameters led to four soil types which correspond with local Wolof denotations: Dek, Bowel, Dior and Bardial. The soil types were confirmed by a Non-metric Multidimensional-Scaling (NMDS) ordination and extrapolated via a Random Forest classifier using six significant variables derived from Landsat imagery and a digital elevation model (out-of-bag error rate: 7.3%). In addition, canopy cover was modeled using Landsat and a Reduced-Major-Axis (RMA) regression (R2 = 0.81). A woody vegetation survey showed that every soil type has its own species composition. However, 29% of Bowel regions are deforested (i.e., degraded) and interviews revealed extensive environmental changes and a strong decline and local extinction of woody species. The differences between the soil types are significant, showing that vegetation changes (i.e., degradation and greening), resilience to climatic stress and human activities largely depend on soil properties. We highlight that spatial heterogeneity is an important aspect when dealing with environmental changes in the Sahel, and local knowledge can be well used to classify spatial units by means of public Earth observation data.