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Short-term response of arctic vegetation NDVI to temperature anomalies

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The effects of climate change on northern vegetation productivity need to be fully understood in order to reduce uncertainties in predicting vegetation distributions under different climate warming scenarios. Knowledge of the relationship between northern climate and vegetation productivity will also help provide a better understanding of changes in vegetation distributions as an indicator of climate change and variability. Vegetation productivity and biomass have been monitored using long-term satellite earth observations, mostly using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), as a cumulative indicator of all effects resulting from processes related to climate change, including changes in temperature, precipitation, and disturbance. In this paper, the investigation is focused on the short-term effect of temperature anomalies on arctic and tree-line transition vegetation productivity in both dry and humid regions of Canada. The analysis shows that several land-cover types composed mainly of trees and shrubs exhibit a significant increase in NDVI with higher-than-normal temperatures in the preceding 10-40-day period, while land-cover types consisting of lichen and moss growing on mostly barren surfaces show a significant NDVI decrease with increased temperature. These trends are consistent with results reported in plot-warming experiments in the north, which have shown that certain vegetation communities increase, while others decrease in cover fraction and biomass in response to warming. When land cover is grouped into increasing and decreasing NDVI with temperature and stratified by dry and humid regions of Canada, much of the dry region of northern Canada does not exhibit significant NDVI response to preceding temperature anomalies. It is expected that in the absence of disturbance or other limiting factors, an increased frequency of elevated temperature anomalies may eventually contribute to changes in vegetation biomass. A map of land-cover types that have the potential to increase in biomass with climate warming and those that are vulnerable to decline is presented.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1A 0Y7

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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