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Remote Sens. 2015, 7(12), 16607-16622; doi:10.3390/rs71215847

Climatic Controls on Spring Onset of the Tibetan Plateau Grasslands from 1982 to 2008

1
State Key Laboratory of Hydraulics and Mountain River, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610065, China
2
Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, College of Forestry & Conservation, The University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Cheinway Hwang, Alfredo R. Huete and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 31 August 2015 / Revised: 24 November 2015 / Accepted: 1 December 2015 / Published: 8 December 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing in Tibet and Siberia)
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Abstract

Understanding environmental controls on vegetation spring onset (SO) in the Tibetan Plateau (TP) is crucial to diagnosing regional ecosystem responses to climate change. We investigated environmental controls on the SO of the TP grasslands using satellite vegetation index (VI) from the 3rd Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS3g) product, with in situ air temperature (Ta) and precipitation (Prcp) measurement records from 1982 to 2008. The SO was determined using a dynamic threshold method based on a 25% threshold of seasonal VI amplitude. We find that SO shows overall close associations with spring Ta, but is also subject to regulation from spring precipitation. In relatively dry but increasingly wetting (0.50 mm·year−1, p < 0.10) grasslands (mean spring Prcp = 22.8 mm; Ta = −3.27 °C), more precipitation tends to advance SO (−0.146 day·mm1, p = 0.150) before the mid-1990s, but delays SO (0.110 day·mm−1, p = 0.108) over the latter record attributed to lower solar radiation and cooler temperatures associated with Prcp increases in recent years. In contrast, in relatively humid TP grasslands (73.0 mm; −3.51 °C), more precipitation delays SO (0.036 day·mm−1, p = 0.165) despite regional warming (0.045 °C·year−1, p < 0.05); the SO also shows a delaying response to a standardized drought index (mean R = 0.266), indicating a low energy constraint to vegetation onset. Our results highlight the importance of surface moisture status in regulating the phenological response of alpine grasslands to climate warming. View Full-Text
Keywords: spring onset; Tibetan Plateau; grasslands; warming; precipitation spring onset; Tibetan Plateau; grasslands; warming; precipitation
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Zhang, W.; Yi, Y.; Kimball, J.S.; Kim, Y.; Song, K. Climatic Controls on Spring Onset of the Tibetan Plateau Grasslands from 1982 to 2008. Remote Sens. 2015, 7, 16607-16622.

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