, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 396-405,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 26 Aug 2012

Spatiotemporal variation in alpine grassland phenology in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau from 1999 to 2009


Plant phenology is the most salient and sensitive indicator of terrestrial ecosystem response to climate change. Studying its change is significantly important in understanding and predicting impressively changes in terrestrial ecosystem. Based on NDVI from SPOT VGT, this paper analyzed the spatiotemporal changes in alpine grassland phenology in Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau from 1999 to 2009. The results are enumerated as follows: (1) The spatial distribution of the average alpine grassland phenology from 1999 to 2009 is closely related to water and heat conditions. Accompanying the deterioration in heat and water conditions from southeast to northwest, the start of growth season (SOG) was delayed gradually, the end of growth season (EOG) advanced slowly, and the length of growth season (LOG) shortened gradually. Elevation played an important role in the regional differentiation of phenology, but a dividing line of approximately 3500 m existed. Below this line, the phenology fluctuated irregularly with altitude change, whereas above the line, the phenology is closely related to altitude change. (2) From 1999 to 2009, SOG of the alpine grassland came earlier by six days per decade (R 2=0.281, P=0.093), EOG was late by two days per decade (R 2=0.031, P=0.605), and LOG lengthened by eight days per decade (R 2=0.479, P=0.018). The early SOG, the late EOG, and the extended LOG mainly occurred at the center and east of the Plateau. SOG in most of the Plateau advanced significantly, especially in the eastern Plateau. (3) The inter-annual phenology changes of the alpine grassland in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau exhibited significant differentiation at different elevation and natural zones. The inter-annual changes at high altitude were more complicated than that at low altitude. The most significant phenology changes were found in the eastern Qinghai-Qilian montane steppe zone, and non-significant changes occurred in the Southern Tibet montane shrub-steppe zone.