International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 52, Issue 6, pp 511–520 | Cite as

Assessing onset and length of greening period in six vegetation types in Oaxaca, Mexico, using NDVI-precipitation relationships

  • L. Gómez-Mendoza
  • L. Galicia
  • M. L. Cuevas-Fernández
  • V. Magaña
  • G. Gómez
  • J. L. Palacio-Prieto
Original Paper


Variations in the normalized vegetation index (NDVI) for the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, were analyzed in terms of precipitation anomalies for the period 1997–2003. Using 10-day averages in NDVI data, obtained from AVHRR satellite information, the response of six types of vegetation to intra-annual and inter-annual fluctuations in precipitation were examined. The onset and temporal evolution of the greening period were studied in terms of precipitation variations through spectral analysis (coherence and phase). The results indicate that extremely dry periods, such as those observed in 1997 and 2001, resulted in low values of NDVI for much of Oaxaca, while good precipitation periods produced a rapid response (20–30 days of delay) from a stressed to a non-stressed condition in most vegetation types. One of these rapid changes occurred during the transition from dry to wet conditions during the summer of 1998. As in many parts of the tropics and subtropics, the NDVI reflects low frequency variations in precipitation on several spatial scales. Even after long dry periods (2001–2002), the various regional vegetation types are capable of recovering when a good rainy season takes place, indicating that vegetation types such as the evergreen forests in the high parts of Oaxaca respond better to rainfall characteristics (timing, amount) than to temperature changes, as is the case in most mid-latitudes. This finding may be relevant to prepare climate change scenarios for forests, where increases in surface temperature and precipitation anomalies are expected.


Climate variability NDVI Phenology Tropical forest Temperate forest 



This study was supported by the DGAPA-PAPIIT, and is part of the doctoral research of the first author. CONACYT and DGEP-UNAM provided financial support. The authors are grateful to René Ramos for his technical support, to Miguel Cortéz†, Javier Espinosa-Cruickshank and Adelina Albanil, for sharing climate data; and to Laura Arriaga, Lorenzo Vázquez-Selem and José Villanueva for their critical comments that improved a previous draft, and two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Gómez-Mendoza
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. Galicia
    • 1
  • M. L. Cuevas-Fernández
    • 1
  • V. Magaña
    • 2
  • G. Gómez
    • 1
  • J. L. Palacio-Prieto
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de GeografíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCoyoacánMexico
  2. 2.Centro de Ciencias de la AtmósferaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCoyoacánMexico

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