Research team


Manuela Balzarolo is a remote sensing specialist on ecological applications. Over the years, she has specialized in the application of remote sensing to assess vegetation productivity, ecosystem functions and phenology. She has a broad expertise in remote sensing data processing and time-series analysis. She is currently coordinating the ECOPROPHET project ( that aims at improving simulations of ecosystem productivity by using new Earth Observation products from different platforms (e.g. ESA Sentinel 2, Proba-V, MODIS, GOME). She lead also the HYPI project focusing on the assessment of isoprene emission by remote sensing techniques.

Improved ecosystem productivity modeling by innovative algorithms and remotely sensed phenology indicators (ECOPROPHET). 15/12/2016 - 31/05/2022


By providing food, animal-feed, fibre and energy, biomass production is possibly the most important ecosystem service made to society. While global products of biomass production from Remote Sensing (MOD17) and Land Surface models do capture the global patterns as described by in-situ observations, they still fail to capture the existing huge variability within biomes. The ECOPROPHET project aims to improve this situation 1) by testing to what degree the multitude of new Earth Observation data (e.g. from Sentinel 2, Proba-V) are able to be exploited as better proxies of ecosystem functional phenology (photosynthetic activity) and can be used to improve the phenology modules of Land Surface models, 2) by exploring the potential of these new remote sensing data to produce a new gross primary productivity (GPP) product, 3) by developing an entirely new algorithm to convert remote sensing-based GPP products to biomass production, and 4) by using a large database of quality-controlled in situ measurements of biomass production, all accompanied by a standardized uncertainty estimate, and the FLUXNET 2015 and ICOS databases (for in situ GPP estimates and functional phenology data) to assess whether our efforts did in fact reduce the currently large unexplained variation in ecosystem gross primary productivity and biomass production. A major focus of this project is on functional phenology as a key determinant of ecosystem carbon, water and energy balances. Current phenological observations are all based on differences in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is a good proxy for canopy leaf area and light absorption, but is not an ideal proxy for canopy photosynthesis, especially during drought periods and during autumn when greenness and photosynthesis become uncoupled. We propose to use novel remote sensing-based indicators, more closely related to photosynthetic processes than to greenness, to parameterize phenology modules of Land Surface models and thereby improve their estimates for present time and projections under future climate. The novel developed indicator will be used to produce a new generation remote sensing-based GPP and NPP product.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project