Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 14, Issue 9, pp 1827–1838 | Cite as

Sources of uncertainty in exploring rangeland phenology: A case study in an alpine meadow on the central Tibetan Plateau



Global climate change has been found to substantially influence the phenology of rangeland, especially on the Tibetan Plateau. However, there is considerable controversy about the trends and causes of rangeland phenology owing to different phenological exploration methods and lack of ground validation. Little is known about the uncertainty in the exploration accuracy of vegetation phenology. Therefore, in this study, we selected a typical alpine rangeland near Damxung national meteorological station as a case study on central Tibetan Plateau, and identified several important sources influencing phenology to better understand their effects on phenological exploration. We found man-made land use was not easily distinguished from natural rangelands, and therefore this may confound phenological response to climate change in the rangeland. Change trends of phenology explored by four methods were similar, but ratio threshold method (RTM) was more suitable for exploring vegetation phenology in terms of the beginning of growing season (BGS) and end of growing season (EGS). However, some adjustments are needed when RTM is used in extreme drought years. MODIS NDVI/EVI dataset was most suitable for exploring vegetation phenology of BGS and EGS. The discrimination capacities of vegetation phenology declined with decreasing resolution of remote sensing images from MODIS to GIMMS AVHRR datasets. Additionally, distinct trends of phenological change rates were indicated in different terrain conditions, with advance of growing season in high altitudes but delay of season in lower altitudes. Therefore, it was necessary to eliminate interference of complex terrain and man-made land use to ensure the representativeness of natural vegetation. Moreover, selecting the appropriate method to explore rangelands and fully considering the impact of topography are important to accurately analyze the effects of climate change on vegetation phenology.


Climate change Data quality NDVI Phenological exploration Northern Tibetan Plateau 


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The authors wish to thank Dr ZU Jiaxing for his help to deal with the data. Thanks are due to Dr LIN Guigang for his assistance with the language of the paper and valuable suggestions on how to revise the original manuscript. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41271067) and National key research and development program (2016YFC0502001).

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Sources of uncertainty in exploring rangeland phenology: A case study in an alpine meadow on the central Tibetan Plateau


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of ScienceBeijingChina
  3. 3.China National Forestry Economics and Development Research CenterBeijingChina

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