Grassland productivity in an alpine environment in response to climate change

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Abstract:

Situated in a climatically stressful environment, alpine grassland is sensitive to subtle climate changes in its productivity. We remedy the current deficiency in studying grassland productivity by taking the integrated effect of all relevant factors into consideration. The relative importance of temperature, rainfall and evaporation to the alpine grassland productivity in western China was determined through analysis of their relationship with the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) between 1981 and 2000. Climate warming stimulated grassland productivity in the 1980s, but hampered it in the 1990s. Temperature is more important than rainfall to grassland productivity early in the growing season. However, their relative importance is reversed late in the growing season. Monthly summer month rainfall modified by maximum monthly temperature is a good predictor of alpine grassland productivity at 62.0 per cent. However, the best predictor is water deficiency, which is able to improve the estimation accuracy to 78.3 per cent. Hence, the impact of temperature on grassland productivity is better studied indirectly through evaporation.

Keywords: NDVI; alpine environment; climate change; grassland productivity; western China

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2005.00637.x

Affiliations: 1: College of Geographic Science, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, PR China 2: School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand, Email: jg.gao@auckland.ac.nz

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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