Most natural forests are mixed forests, a mixed broadleaf-conifer forest is essentially a heterogeneously mixed pixel in remote sensing images. Satellite missions rely on modeling to acquire regional or global vegetation parameter products. However, these retrieval models often assume homogeneous conditions at the pixel level, resulting in a decrease in the inversion accuracy, which is an issue for heterogeneous forests. Therefore, information on the canopy composition of a mixed forest is the basis for accurately retrieving vegetation parameters using remote sensing. Medium and high spatial resolution multispectral time-series data are important sources for canopy conifer-broadleaf ratio estimation because these data have a high frequency and wide coverage. This paper highlights a successful method for estimating the conifer-broadleaf ratio in a mixed forest with diverse tree species and complex canopy structures. Experiments were conducted in the Purple Mountain, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province of China, where we collected leaf area index (LAI) time-series and forest sample plot inventory data. Based on the Invertible Forest Reflectance Model (INFORM), we simulated the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) time-series of different conifer-broadleaf ratios. A time-series similarity analysis was performed to determine the typical separable conifer-broadleaf ratios. Fifteen Gaofen-1 (GF-1) satellite images of 2015 were acquired. The conifer-broadleaf ratio estimation was based on the GF-1 NDVI time-series and semi-supervised k-means cluster method, which yielded a high overall accuracy of 83.75%. This study demonstrates the feasibility of accurately estimating separable conifer-broadleaf ratios using field measurement data and GF-1 time series in mixed broadleaf-conifer forests.

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Published in Remote Sensing, v. 13, issue 21, 4426.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2017YFD0600903), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41771370, 31760707).

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All data generated and/or analyzed during this study are available from the corresponding author upon request on reasonable request.