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Modeling the date of leaf appearance in low-arctic tundra

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One of the reported changes of arctic ecosystems in response to warming climate is the advance of the leaf appearance in spring. Such phenological changes play a role in the structural changes within tundra ecosystem communities. Recently, we developed a model that estimates the leaf appearance date for deciduous trees in taiga. We apply this model to the whole low-arctic tundra, and we compare the simulated green-up dates with the green-up dates obtained from satellite observations and to in situ measurements of deciduous shrub leaf appearance. The model, although calibrated for taiga, performs remarkably well in tundra, with root mean square error ranging between 4 and 8 days for most of the tundra region, the same order as in taiga regions. The results seem to indicate that air temperature is the main factor controlling spring leaf phenology in tundra, just as in taiga, although these results do not permit us to reject soil temperature as the main trigger for leaf appearance in tundra. Because our model performs in tundra as well as in taiga, it can be used across the ecotone, and during a northward migration of the species from the taiga to the low-arctic region. The leaf appearance model and the satellite observations reveal that leaf appearance has tended to occur earlier by approximately 10 days both in Alaska since 1975, and in west Siberian tundra since 1965.
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Keywords: AVHRR; NDVI; SPOT-VEGETATION; boreal; earth observation; leaf appearance; phenology; remote sensing; taiga; tundra

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Ecosystem Change Research Program, JAMSTEC Frontier Research Center for Global Change, 3173-25 Showa machi, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 236-0001, Japan,

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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