MODIS-Derived Terrestrial Primary Production

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Land Remote Sensing and Global Environmental Change: NASA's Earth Observing System and the Science of ASTER and MODIS



Publication Date



Chapter 28

First Page


Last Page



Temporal and spatial changes in terrestrial biological productivity have a large impact on humankind because terrestrial ecosystems not only create environments suitable for human habitation, but also provide materials essential for survival, such as food, fiber and fuel. A recent study estimated that consumption of terrestrial net primary production (NPP; a list of all the acronyms is available in the appendix at the end of the chapter) by the human population accounts for about 14–26% of global NPP (Imhoff et al. 2004). Rapid global climate change is induced by increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration, especially CO2, which results from human activities such as fossil fuel combustion and deforestation. This directly impacts terrestrial NPP, which continues to change in both space and time (Melillo et al. 1993; Prentice et al. 2001; Nemani et al. 2003), and ultimately impacts the well-being of human society (Milesi et al. 2005). Additionally, substantial evidence show that the oceans and the biosphere, especially terrestrial ecosystems, currently play a major role in reducing the rate of the atmospheric CO2 increase (Prentice et al. 2001; Schimel et al. 2001). NPP is the first step needed to quantify the amount of atmospheric carbon fixed by plants and accumulated as biomass. Continuous and accurate measurements of terrestrial NPP at the global scale are possible using satellite data. Since early 2000, for the first time, the MODIS sensors onboard the Terra and Aqua satellites, have operationally provided scientists with near real-time global terrestrial gross primary production (GPP) and net photosynthesis (PsnNet) data. These data are provided at 1 km spatial resolution and an 8-day interval, and annual NPP covers 109,782,756 km2 of vegetated land. These GPP, PsnNet and NPP products are collectively known as MOD17 and are part of a larger suite of MODIS land products (Justice et al. 2002), one of the core Earth System or Climate Data Records (ESDR or CDR).




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