Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 135, Issue 3–4, pp 1629–1640 | Cite as

Using the NDVI to analyze trends and stability of grassland vegetation cover in Inner Mongolia

  • Qing Lu
  • Dongsheng ZhaoEmail author
  • Shaohong Wu
  • Erfu Dai
  • Jiangbo Gao
Original Paper


Grassland plays an important role in preventing desertification and conserving soil and water in arid and semi-arid regions. Grasslands are very sensitive to, and have been affected by, climate change over the past three decades. To gain an improved insight into the dynamics and stability of grassland vegetation, we evaluated trends in the vegetation cover in the Inner Mongolia grassland and its response to climate change using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) datasets from 1982 to 2013. We used resilience (E) which is the sensitivity of vegetation cover to climate change relative to their mean values and the coefficient of variation (CV) to represent the stability of the grassland vegetation cover. The results indicated that changes in the growing season NDVI were not significant with the value of 0.00033/year (p = 0.24) from 1982 to 2013. Using the CV to represent stability showed that the NDVI, with a CV of about 6.0, was more stable than precipitation and temperature, which had CV values of about 20.0 and 10.0, respectively. Using E as an index of the relationships between NDVI and climate variables showed that the NDVI was insensitive to both precipitation (E = 0.15) and temperature (E = 0.10) but sensitive to sunshine duration with the CV values of about 5.0. The higher E values for the different grassland types in summer might reflect climate change characterized by warming and decreases in precipitation. In summary, the grassland vegetation cover in Inner Mongolia was very stable over the period from 1982 to 2013. This study has crucial significance for future predictions of the influence of climate change on grassland and the results should be used to support the development of improved management strategies.


Author contributions

All authors contributed significantly to this manuscript. To be specific, Dongsheng Zhao and Qing Lu conceived the research and were responsible for the data processing and paper writing. Shaohong Wu, Erfu Dai, and Jiangbo Gao made very valuable suggestions for this paper. All authors reviewed and accepted the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was supported by the National Nature Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41530749, Grant No. 41571193), the Doctoral Scientific Research Foundation of East China University of Technology (Grant No. DHBK2017150), the Scientific Research Fund of Jiangxi Provincial Education Department (Grant No. GJJ170448), and the Research Center of Resource and Environment Strategies, East China University of Technology (Grant No. 17GL02).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Bai YF, Han XG, Wu JG, Chen ZZ, Li LH (2004) Ecosystem stability and compensatory effects in the Inner Mongolia grassland. Nature 431:181–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bao G, Bao YH, Sanjjava A, Qin ZH, Zhou Y, Xu G (2015) NDVI-indicated long-term vegetation dynamics in Mongolia and their response to climate change at biome scale. Int J Climatol 35:4293–4306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bao G, Bao YH, Qin ZH, Xin XP, Bao YL, Bayarsaikan S, Zhou Y, Chuntai B (2016) Modeling net primary productivity of terrestrial ecosystems in the semi-arid climate of the Mongolian Plateau using LSWI-based CASA ecosystem model. Int J Appl Earth Obs Geoinf 46:84–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bunn AG, Goetz SJ (2006) Trends in satellite-observed circumpolar photosynthetic activity from 1982 to 2003: the influence of seasonality, cover type, and vegetation density. Earth Interact 10:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cadotte MW, Dinnage R, Tilman D (2012) Phylogenetic diversity promotes ecosystem stability. Ecology 93:S223–S233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen AF, He B, Wang HL, Huang L, Zhu YH, Lv AF (2015) Notable shifting in the responses of vegetation activity to climate change in China. Phys Chem Earth 87–88:60–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cleland EE (2011) Biodiversity and ecosystem stability. Nat Educ Knowl 3:14Google Scholar
  8. Cleland EE, Chuine I, Menzel A, Mooney HA, Schwartz MD (2007) Shifting plant phenology in response to global change. Trends Ecol Evol 22:357–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cramer W, Bondeau A, Woodward FI, Prentice IC, Betts RA, Brovkin V, Cox PM, Fisher V, Foley JA, Friend AD (2001) Global response of terrestrial ecosystem structure and function to CO2 and climate change: results from six dynamic global vegetation models. Glob Chang Biol 7:357–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Keersmaecker W, Lhermitte S, Honnay O, Farifteh J, Somers B, Coppin P (2014) How to measure ecosystem stability? An evaluation of the reliability of stability metrics based on remote sensing time series across the major global ecosystems. Glob Chang Biol 20:2149–2161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. de Mazancourt C, Isbell F, Larocque A, Berendse F, De Luca E, Grace JB, Haegeman B, Wayne Polley H, Roscher C, Schmid B, Tilman D, van Ruijven J, Weigelt A, Wilsey BJ, Loreau M (2013) Predicting ecosystem stability from community composition and biodiversity. Ecol Lett 16:617–625CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Editorial Board of Rangeland Resources of China (1996) Rangeland resources of China. Science Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  13. Editorial Board of Vegetation Map of China (2001) Vegetation atlas of China. Science Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  14. Gamon JA, Kovalchuck O, Wong CYS, Harris A, Garrity SR (2015) Monitoring seasonal and diurnal changes in photosynthetic pigments with automated PRI and NDVI sensors. Biogeosciences 12:4149–4159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Guo QF (2005) Plant communities: ecosystem maturity and performance. Nature 435:6–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Guo LH, Wu SH, Zhao DS, Yin YH, Leng GY, Zhang QY (2014) NDVI-based vegetation change in Inner Mongolia from 1982 to 2006 and its relationship to climate at the biome scale. Adv Meteorol 2014:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Han JG, Zhang YJ, Wang CJ, Bai WM, Wang YR, Han GD, Li LH (2008) Rangeland degradation and restoration management in China. Rangel J 30:233–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hao FH, Zhang X, Ouyang W, Skidmore AK, Toxopeus AG (2012) Vegetation NDVI linked to temperature and precipitation in the upper catchments of Yellow River. Environ Model Assess 17:389–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hautier Y, Tilman D, Isbell F, Seabloom EW, Borer ET, Reich PB (2015) Anthropogenic environmental changes affect ecosystem stability via biodiversity. Science 348:336–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoekstra NJ, Suter M, Finn JA, Husse S, Lüscher A (2015) Do belowground vertical niche differences between deep- and shallow-rooted species enhance resource uptake and drought resistance in grassland mixtures? Plant Soil 394:21–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holben BN (1986) Characteristics of maximum-value composite images from temporal AVHRR data. Int J Remote Sens 7:1417–1434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hou WJ, Gao JB, Wu SH, Dai EF (2015) Interannual variations in growing-season NDVI and its correlation with climate variables in the southwestern karst region of China. Remote Sens 7:11105–11124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. IPCC (2013) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis: contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Ives AR, Carpenter SR (2007) Stability and diversity of ecosystems. Science 317:58–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee R, Yu F, Price KP, Ellis J, Shi PJ (2002) Evaluating vegetation phenological patterns in Inner Mongolia using NDVI time-series analysis. Int J Remote Sens 23:2505–2512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Loreau M, de Mazancourt C (2013) Biodiversity and ecosystem stability: a synthesis of underlying mechanisms. Ecol Lett 16(Suppl 1):106–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ma WH, Fang JY (2006) The relationship between species richness and productivity in four typical grasslands of northern China. Biodivers Sci 14:21–28 (in Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miao LJ, Jiang C, Xue BL, Liu Q, He B, Nath R, Cui XF (2014) Vegetation dynamics and factor analysis in arid and semi-arid Inner Mongolia. Environ Earth Sci 73:2343–2352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Morecroft MD, Bealey CE, Scott WA, Taylor ME (2016) Interannual variability, stability and resilience in UK plant communities. Ecol Indic 68:63–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morgan Ernest S, Brown JH (2001) Homeostasis and compensation: the role of species and resources in ecosystem stability. Ecology 82:2118–2132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mougi A, Kondoh M (2012) Diversity of interaction types and ecological community stability. Science 337:349–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Myneni RB, Maggion S, Iaquinta J, Privette JL, Gobron N, Pinty B, Kimes DS, Verstraete MM, Williams DL (1995) Optical remote sensing of vegetation: modeling, caveats, and algorithms. Remote Sens Environ 51:169–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Myneni RB, Keeling CD, Tucker CJ, Asrar G, Nemani RR (1997) Increased plant growth in the northern high latitudes from 1981 to 1991. Nature 386:698–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Myneni RB, Dong J, Tucker CJ, Kaufmann RK, Kauppi PE, Liski J, Zhou L, Alexeyev V, Hughes MK (2001) A large carbon sink in the woody biomass of Northern forests. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 98:14784–14789CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nemani RR, Keeling CD, Hashimoto H, Jolly WM, Piper SC, Tucker CJ, Myneni RB, Running SW (2003) Climate-driven increases in global terrestrial net primary production from 1982 to 1999. Science 300:1560–1563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Peng SS, Chen AP, Xu L, Cao CX, Fang JY, Myneni RB, Pinzon JE, Tucker CJ, Piao SL (2011) Recent change of vegetation growth trend in China. Environ Res Lett 6:044027 (13pp)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Piao SL, Fang JY, Zhou LM, Guo QH, Henderson M, Ji W, Li Y, Tao S (2003) Interannual variations of monthly and seasonal normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) in China from 1982 to 1999. J Geophys Res Atmos 108:ACL 1-1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Piao SL, Mohammat A, Fang JY, Cai Q, Feng JM (2006) NDVI-based increase in growth of temperate grasslands and its responses to climate changes in China. Glob Environ Chang 16:340–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Piao SL, Wang XH, Ciais P, Zhu B, Wang T, Liu J (2011) Changes in satellite-derived vegetation growth trend in temperate and boreal Eurasia from 1982 to 2006. Glob Chang Biol 17:3228–3239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Piao SL, Nan HJ, Huntingford C, Ciais P, Friedlingstein P, Sitch S, Peng SS, Ahlstrom A, Canadell JG, Cong N, Levis S, Levy PE, Liu LL, Lomas MR, Mao JF, Myneni RB, Peylin P, Poulter B, Shi XY, Yin GD, Viovy N, Wang T, Wang XH, Zaehle S, Zeng N, Zeng ZZ, Chen AP (2014) Evidence for a weakening relationship between interannual temperature variability and northern vegetation activity. Nat Commun 5:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pielke RA Sr, Avissar R, Raupach M, Dolman AJ, Zeng X, Denning AS (1998) Interactions between the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems: influence on weather and climate. Glob Chang Biol 4:461–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pimm SL (1984) The complexity and stability of ecosystems. Nature 307:321–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rooney N, Mccann KS (2012) Integrating food web diversity, structure and stability. Trends Ecol Evol 27:40–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schmidt M, Klein D, Conrad C, Dech S, Paeth H (2013) On the relationship between vegetation and climate in tropical and northern Africa. Theor Appl Climatol 115:341–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Song Y, Ma MG (2011) A statistical analysis of the relationship between climatic factors and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index in China. Int J Remote Sens 32:3947–3965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sun WY, Song XY, Mu XM, Gao P, Wang F, Zhao GJ (2015) Spatiotemporal vegetation cover variations associated with climate change and ecological restoration in the Loess Plateau. Agric For Meteorol 209:87–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tao FL, Yokozawa M, Xu YL, Hayashi Y, Zhang Z (2006) Climate changes and trends in phenology and yields of field crops in China, 1981–2000. Agric For Meteorol 138:82–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tian HJ, Cao CX, Chen W, Bao SN, Yang B, Myneni RB (2015) Response of vegetation activity dynamic to climatic change and ecological restoration programs in Inner Mongolia from 2000 to 2012. Ecol Eng 82:276–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tilman D, Downing JA (1994) Biodiversity and stability in grasslands. Nature 367:363–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tilman D, Reich PB, Knops JM (2006) Biodiversity and ecosystem stability in a decade-long grassland experiment. Nature 441:629–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tilman D, Reich PB, Isbell F (2012) Biodiversity impacts ecosystem productivity as much as resources, disturbance or herbivory. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109:10394–10397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tong XW, Wang KL, Brandt M, Yue YM, Liao CJ, Fensholt R (2016) Assessing future vegetation trends and restoration prospects in the karst regions of Southwest China. Remote Sens 8:1–17Google Scholar
  53. Tucker CJ, Newcomb WW (1991) Expansion and contraction of the Sahara desert from 1980 to 1990. Science 253:299–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tucker CJ, Pinzon JE, Brown ME, Slayback DA, Pak EW, Mahoney R, Vermote EF, El Saleous N (2005) An extended AVHRR 8-km NDVI dataset compatible with MODIS and SPOT vegetation NDVI data. Int J Remote Sens 26:4485–4498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wang S, Loreau M (2014) Ecosystem stability in space: alpha, beta and gamma variability. Ecol Lett 17:891–901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang SP, Niu HS, Cui XY, Jiang S, Li YH, Xiao XM, Wang JZ, Wang GJ, Huang DH, Qi QH, Yang ZG (2005) Plant communities: ecosystem stability in Inner Mongolia. Nature 435:E5–E6 discussion E6–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wang WL, Anderson BT, Phillips N, Kaufmann RK, Potter C, Myneni RB (2006) Feedbacks of vegetation on summertime climate variability over the North American grasslands. Part I: statistical analysis. Earth Interact 10(17):1–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wang XH, Piao SL, Ciais P, Li JS, Friedlingstein P, Koven C, Chen A (2011) Spring temperature change and its implication in the change of vegetation growth in North America from 1982 to 2006. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108:1240–1245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wen ZF, Wu SJ, Chen JL, Lu MQ (2016) NDVI indicated long-term interannual changes in vegetation activities and their responses to climatic and anthropogenic factors in the Three Gorges Reservoir Region, China. Sci Total Environ 574:947–959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wu JG, Bai YF, Han XG, Li LH, Chen ZZ (2005) Plant communities: ecosystem stability in Inner Mongolia (reply). Nature 435:E6–E7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wu DH, Zhao X, Liang SL, Zhou T, Huang KC, Tang BJ, Zhao WQ (2015) Time-lag effects of global vegetation responses to climate change. Glob Chang Biol 21:3520–3531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Xie GD, Zhang YL, Lu CX, Zheng D, Cheng SK (2000) Study on valuation of rangeland ecosystem services of China. J Nat Resour 16:47–53 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  63. Xin ZB, Xu JX, Zheng W (2008) Spatiotemporal variations of vegetation cover on the Chinese Loess Plateau (1981–2006): impacts of climate changes and human activities. Sci China Ser D Earth Sci 51:67–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Xu G, Zhang HF, Chen BZ, Zhang HR, Innes J, Wang GY, Yan JW, Zheng YH, Zhu ZC, Myneni R (2014) Changes in vegetation growth dynamics and relations with climate over China’s landmass from 1982 to 2011. Remote Sens 6:3263–3283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yang YH, Piao SL (2006) Vegetation in grassland vegetaiton cover in relation to climatic factors on the Tibetan Plateau. J Plant Ecol 30:1–8 (in Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Yu Q, Chen QS, Elser JJ, He NP, Wu HH, Zhang GM, Wu JG, Bai YF, Han XG (2010) Linking stoichiometric homoeostasis with ecosystem structure, functioning and stability. Ecol Lett 13:1390–1399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zhou LM, Tucker CJ, Kaufmann RK, Slayback D, Shabanov NV, Myneni RB (2001) Variations in northern vegetation activity inferred from satellite data of vegetation index during 1981 to 1999. J Geophys Res-Atmos 106:20069–20083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zhou HK, Zhou L, Zhao XQ, Liu W, Li YN, Gu S, Zhou XM (2006) Stability of alpine meadow ecosystem on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Chin Sci Bull 51:320–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qing Lu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dongsheng Zhao
    • 4
    Email author
  • Shaohong Wu
    • 4
  • Erfu Dai
    • 4
  • Jiangbo Gao
    • 4
  1. 1.School of GeomaticsEast China University of TechnologyNanchangChina
  2. 2.Research Center of Resource and Environment StrategiesEast China University of TechnologyNanchangChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Watershed Ecology and Geographical Environment Monitoring, NASGNanchangChina
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and SimulationInstitute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations