We use the Li-Strahler geometric-optical model combined with a scaling-based approach to detect forest structural changes in the Three Gorges region of China. The physical-based Li-Strahler model can be inverted to retrieve forest structural properties. One of the main input variables for the inverted model is the fractional component of sunlit background, which is calculated by using pure reflectance spectra (endmembers) of surface components. In this study, we extract these endmembers from moderate spatial resolution MODIS data using two scaling-based methods (namely, a regional based linear unmixing and a purest-pixel approach) relying on corresponding high spatial resolution Landsat TM images. Then, the forest structural property crown closure (CC) is estimated by inverting the Li-Strahler model based on the extracted endmembers. Changes in CC are mapped using MODIS mosaics dated 2002 and 2004 for the whole Three Gorges region. Validation of the estimated CC using 25 sample sites indicates that the regional scaling-based endmembers extracted using linear unmixing are more suitable to be used in combination with the inverted Li-Strahler model for monitoring the forest CC than the purest-pixel approach, and results in significantly better estimates in both years (R22002 =0.614, RMSE2002 =6%, R22004 =0.631 and RMSE2004 =5.2%). A change detection map of the model derived CC in 2002 and 2004 shows a decrease in CC in the eastern counties of the Three Gorges region located close to the Three Gorges Dam. An increase in CC has been observed in other counties of the Three Gorges region, implying a preliminary positive feedback on certain policy measures taken safeguarding forest structure.