Environmental Management

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 38–48 | Cite as

Use of Descriptors of Ecosystem Functioning for Monitoring a National Park Network: A Remote Sensing Approach

  • Domingo Alcaraz-Segura
  • Javier Cabello
  • José M. Paruelo
  • Miguel Delibes


Baseline assessments and monitoring of protected areas are essential for making management decisions, evaluating the effectiveness of management practices, and tracking the effects of global changes. For these purposes, the analysis of functional attributes of ecosystems (i.e., different aspects of the exchange of matter and energy) has advantages over the traditional use of structural attributes, like a quicker response to disturbances and the fact that they are easily monitored through remote sensing. In this study, we described the spatiotemporal patterns of different aspects of the ecosystem functioning of the Spanish national parks and their response to environmental changes between 1982 and 2006. To do so, we used the NOAA/AVHRR-GIMMS dataset of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a linear estimator of the fraction of photosynthetic active radiation intercepted by vegetation, which is the main control of carbon gains. Nearly all parks have significantly changed during the last 25 years: The radiation interception has increased, the contrast between the growing and nongrowing seasons has diminished, and the dates of maximum and minimum interception have advanced. Some parks concentrated more changes than others and the degree of change varied depending on their different environmental conditions, management, and conservation histories. Our approach identified reference conditions and temporal changes for different aspects of ecosystem functioning, which can be used for management purposes of protected areas in response to global changes.


Global changes Land-surface phenology Iberian Peninsula Monitoring National parks management Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) Reference conditions Seasonality Spain 



Financial support was provided by the postdoctoral program of Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia of Spain, University of Almería (Becas Puente), Organismo Autónomo de Parques Nacionales (project 066/2007), Junta de Andalucía (projects RNM1288 and RNM1280), Ecología de Zonas Áridas Research Group, University of Buenos Aires, CONICET, and FONCYT. The source for the satellite data was the Global Land Cover Facility. CORINE land-cover-1990 database was supplied by the EIONET–European Environmental Agency. We thank C. S. Grubbs and L. Paruelo for their revisions of the English grammar and to E. Liras for her useful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Domingo Alcaraz-Segura
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Javier Cabello
    • 2
  • José M. Paruelo
    • 4
  • Miguel Delibes
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Departamento de Biología Vegetal y EcologíaUniversidad de AlmeríaAlmeriaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Applied BiologyEstación Biológica de Doñana – CSICSevilleSpain
  4. 4.Laboratorio de Análisis Regional y Teledetección, Facultad de Agronomía e Instituto de Investigaciones Fisiológicas y Ecológicas Vinculadas a la Agricultura (IFEVA)Universidad de Buenos Aires – CONICETBuenos AiresArgentina

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