For an ecological characterization of river basins we suggest that the indicator of soil-productive potential should be used, which characterizes the ability of the natural or natural-anthropogenic ecosystem to reproduce under certain soil-climatic conditions the phytomass and which summarized long-term evidence for the productivity of vegetation cover, phytomass accumulation, some soil properties, and for the factors influencing the activity of production processes. The state of ecosystems can be assessed both from the summarizing values of soil-productive potential and from the parameters forming part thereof. For a soil-productive characterization of ecosystems at a particular time, it is proposed to use the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) which is determined from remote sensing data and reflects the overall state of soil-vegetation cover. Results are presented from a comparative assessment of the soil-productive potential for small river basins that form part of the basin the Klyaz’ma river, a tributary of the Oka river. The indicators characterizing the soil-productive potential may be recommended for monitoring operations, a calculation of anthropogenic pressure within drainage basins, and for the organization of a rational land-use pattern.Keywords: remote sensing, vegetation index, vegetation productivity, state of soils.