Varying responses of vegetation activity to climate changes on the Tibetan Plateau grassland
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Vegetation activity on the Tibetan Plateau grassland has been substantially enhanced as a result of climate change, as revealed by satellite observations of vegetation greenness (i.e., the normalized difference vegetation index, NDVI). However, little is known about the temporal variations in the relationships between NDVI and temperature and precipitation, and understanding this is essential for predicting how future climate change would affect vegetation activity. Using NDVI data and meteorological records from 1982 to 2011, we found that the inter-annual partial correlation coefficient between growing season (May–September) NDVI and temperature (RNDVI-T) in a 15-year moving window for alpine meadow showed little change, likely caused by the increasing RNDVI-T in spring (May–June) and autumn (September) and decreasing RNDVI-T in summer (July–August). Growing season RNDVI-T for alpine steppe increased slightly, mainly due to increasing RNDVI-T in spring and autumn. The partial correlation coefficient between growing season NDVI and precipitation (RNDVI-P) for alpine meadow increased slightly, mainly in spring and summer, and RNDVI-P for alpine steppe increased, mainly in spring. Moreover, RNDVI-T for the growing season was significantly higher in those 15-year windows with more precipitation for alpine steppe. RNDVI-P for the growing season was significantly higher in those 15-year windows with higher temperature, and this tendency was stronger for alpine meadow than for alpine steppe. These results indicate that the impact of warming on vegetation activity of Tibetan Plateau grassland is more positive (or less negative) during periods with more precipitation and that the impact of increasing precipitation is more positive (or less negative) during periods with higher temperature. Such positive effects of the interactions between temperature and precipitation indicate that the projected warmer and wetter future climate will enhance vegetation activity of Tibetan Plateau grassland.
KeywordsAlpine grassland Climate change Interaction Precipitation Temperature Vegetation activity Tibetan Plateau
This work was funded by a National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No. 2013CB956303), a Key research program of frontier science (Grant No. QYZDB-SSW-DQC025) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41501103 and 41571103), the ‘Strategic Priority Research Program (B)’ (Grant No. XDB03030404), the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. 2015055), and the CEReS Overseas Joint Research Program, Center for Environmental Remote Sensing, Chiba University (CI16-101).
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