I found many different index for the estimation of vegetation cover, but many of them struggle in sparse areas with low vegetation cover, as the soil signals are way stronger than the vegetation signals.

Is there a vegetation index suited for dry and sparse vegetated areas?

  • 3
    What is your source supporting the idea that SAVI should not be used? The entire point of the index is that an adjustable regression line partials out the effect of soil brightness. As such, it is specifically designed for what you are describing. There is also the MSAVI that mitigates bias associated with vegetation senescence. Mar 22, 2018 at 12:58
  • You are right. I don't know where I picked that up. MSAVI seems to be very interesting. Thank you
    – loloj0
    Mar 22, 2018 at 13:21
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    In maximizing the applicability of these metrics it is imperative to correctly specify the L parameter. The common value used is relevant across a wide range of general conditions however, in more extreme settings (eg., deserts) the parameter must be adjusted to normalize the soil effects. Mar 22, 2018 at 14:52
  • What sensor are you working with? @JeffreyEvans Your comments would make an excellent answer ;)
    – Aaron
    Mar 22, 2018 at 19:21

2 Answers 2


I have used NDVI to measure vegetation cover in sparse spaces. Though the data can be complex to find, i do think it's worth it. NDVI stands for Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and it is picked up using remote sensing.

If you are interested in remote sensing or want to learn more, you should check out this interactive project I have pulled together called, Stories Through the Bird's Eye: Engaging with Remote Sensing! Please, anyone can participate!



You can also try to normalize the already normalized difference vegetation index by subtracting the bare soil NDVI value from your data. I haven't tried to find any publications on this, but the idea seems easy to check. In this case you will find a rough factor to add to your NDVI values. But I can also agree to the above mentioned MSAVI, that works fine from my experience with MSAVI on grasslands.

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