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Open AccessArticle

Seasonal Variation in the NDVI–Species Richness Relationship in a Prairie Grassland Experiment (Cedar Creek)

Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E3, Canada
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada
School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583, USA
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108, USA
Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Academic Editors: Susan L. Ustin, Parth Sarathi Roy and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Remote Sens. 2016, 8(2), 128;
Received: 2 December 2015 / Revised: 28 January 2016 / Accepted: 1 February 2016 / Published: 5 February 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Biodiversity)
Species richness generally promotes ecosystem productivity, although the shape of the relationship varies and remains the subject of debate. One reason for this uncertainty lies in the multitude of methodological approaches to sampling biodiversity and productivity, some of which can be subjective. Remote sensing offers new, objective ways of assessing productivity and biodiversity. In this study, we tested the species richness–productivity relationship using a common remote sensing index, the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), as a measure of productivity in experimental prairie grassland plots (Cedar Creek). Our study spanned a growing season (May to October, 2014) to evaluate dynamic changes in the NDVI–species richness relationship through time and in relation to environmental variables and phenology. We show that NDVI, which is strongly associated with vegetation percent cover and biomass, is related to biodiversity for this prairie site, but it is also strongly influenced by other factors, including canopy growth stage, short-term water stress and shifting flowering patterns. Remarkably, the NDVI-biodiversity correlation peaked at mid-season, a period of warm, dry conditions and anthesis, when NDVI reached a local minimum. These findings confirm a positive, but dynamic, productivity–diversity relationship and highlight the benefit of optical remote sensing as an objective and non-invasive tool for assessing diversity–productivity relationships. View Full-Text
Keywords: remote sensing; species richness; productivity; grassland; NDVI remote sensing; species richness; productivity; grassland; NDVI
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MDPI and ACS Style

Wang, R.; Gamon, J.A.; Montgomery, R.A.; Townsend, P.A.; Zygielbaum, A.I.; Bitan, K.; Tilman, D.; Cavender-Bares, J. Seasonal Variation in the NDVI–Species Richness Relationship in a Prairie Grassland Experiment (Cedar Creek). Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 128.

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