Urbanization can affect the ecological processes, local climate and human health in urban areas by changing the vegetation phenology. In the past 20 years, China has experienced rapid urbanization. Thus, it is imperative to understand the impact of urbanization on vegetation phenology in China. In this study, we quantitatively analyzed the impact of urbanization on vegetation phenology at the national and climate zone scales using remotely sensed data. We found that the start of the growing season (SOS) was advanced by approximately 2.4 days (P < 0.01), and the end of the growing season (EOS) was delayed by approximately 0.7 days (P < 0.01) in the urban areas compared to the rural areas. As a result, the growing season length (GSL) was extended by approximately 3.1 days (P < 0.01). The difference in the SOS and GSL between the urban and rural areas increased from 2001 to 2014, with an annual rate of 0.2 days (R2
= 0.39, P < 0.05) and 0.2 days (R2
= 0.31, P < 0.05), respectively. We also found that the impact of urbanization on vegetation phenology varied among different vegetation types at the national and climate zone levels (P < 0.05). The SOS was negatively correlated with land surface temperature (LST), with a correlation coefficient of −0.24 (P < 0.01), and EOS and GSL were positively correlated with LST, with correlation coefficients of 0.56 and 0.44 (P < 0.01), respectively. The improved understanding of the impact of urbanization on vegetation phenology from this study will be of great help for policy-makers in terms of developing relevant strategies to mitigate the negative environmental effects of urbanization in China.
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