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In this paper, the compression of multispectral images is addressed. Such 3-D data are characterized by a high correlation across the spectral components. The efficiency of the state-of-the-art wavelet-based coder 3-D SPIHT is considered. Although the 3-D SPIHT algorithm provides the obvious way to process a multispectral image as a volumetric block and, consequently, maintain the attractive properties exhibited in 2-D (excellent performance, low complexity, and embeddedness of the bit-stream), its 3-D trees structure is shown to be not adequately suited for 3-D wavelet transformed (DWT) multispectral images. The fact that each parent has eight children in the 3-D structure considerably increases the list of insignificant sets (LIS) and the list of insignificant pixels (LIP) since the partitioning of any set produces eight subsets which will be processed similarly during the sorting pass. Thus, a significant portion from the overall bit-budget is wastedly spent to sort insignificant information. Through an investigation based on results analysis, we demonstrate that a straightforward 2-D SPIHT technique, when suitably adjusted to maintain the rate scalability and carried out in the 3-D DWT domain, overcomes this weakness. In addition, a new SPIHT-based scalable multispectral image compression algorithm is used in the initial iterations to exploit the redundancies within each group of two consecutive spectral bands. Numerical experiments on a number of multispectral images have shown that the proposed scheme provides significant improvements over related works.