Over the past four decades, satellite observations have shown intensified global greening. At the same time, widespread browning and reversal of or stalled greening have been reported at high latitudes. One of the main reasons for this browning/lack of greening is thought to be warming-induced water stress, i.e., soil moisture depletion caused by earlier spring growth and increased summer evapotranspiration. To investigate these phenomena, we use MODIS collection 6, Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies third-generation (GIMMS) normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI3g), and Global Land Evaporation Amsterdam Model (GLEAM) satellite-based root-zone soil moisture data. The study area was the Far North of Ontario (FNO), 453,788 km2
of heterogeneous landscape typical of the tundra-taiga interface, consisting of unmanaged boreal forests growing on mineral and peat soils, wetlands, and the most southerly area of tundra. The results indicate that the increased plant growth in spring leads to decreased summer growth. Lower summer soil moisture is related to increased spring plant growth in areas with lower soil moisture content. We also found that earlier start of growing season leads to decreased summer and peak season maximum plant growth. In conclusion, increased spring plant growth and earlier start of growing season deplete summer soil moisture and decrease the overall summer plant growth even in temperature-limited high latitude ecosystems. Our findings contribute to evolving understanding of changes in vegetation dynamics in relation to climate in northern high latitude terrestrial ecosystems.
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