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Open AccessArticle

Drivers of Productivity Trends in Cork Oak Woodlands over the Last 15 Years

Department of Innovation, Environmental and Energy Sciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3572TC Utrecht, The Netherlands
Geography Department, Humboldt-University Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Susan L. Ustin, Parth Sarathi Roy and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Remote Sens. 2016, 8(6), 486;
Received: 14 February 2016 / Revised: 27 May 2016 / Accepted: 31 May 2016 / Published: 8 June 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Biodiversity)
Higher biodiversity leads to more productive ecosystems which, in turn, supports more biodiversity. Ongoing global changes affect ecosystem productivity and, therefore, are expected to affect productivity-biodiversity relationships. However, the magnitude of these relationships may be affected by baseline biodiversity and its lifeforms. Cork oak (Quercus suber) woodlands are a highly biodiverse Mediterranean ecosystem managed for cork extraction; as a result of this management cork oak woodlands may have both tree and shrub canopies, just tree and just shrub canopies, and just grasslands. Trees, shrubs, and grasses may respond differently to climatic variables and their combination may, therefore, affect measurements of productivity and the resulting productivity-biodiversity relationships. Here, we asked whether the relationship between productivity and climate is affected by the responses of trees, shrubs, and grasses in cork oak woodlands in Southern Portugal. To answer this question, we linked a 15-year time series of Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) derived from Landsat satellites to micrometeorological data to assess the relationship between trends in EVI and climate. Between 2000 and 2013 we observed an overall decrease in EVI. However, EVI increased over cork oaks and decreased over shrublands. EVI trends were strongly positively related to changes in relative humidity and negatively related to temperature. The intra-annual EVI cycle of grasslands and sparse cork oak woodland without understorey (savannah-like ecosystem) had higher variation than the other land-cover types. These results suggest that oaks and shrubs have different responses to changes in water availability, which can be either related to oak physiology, to oaks being either more resilient or having lagged responses to changes in climate, or to the fact that shrublands start senesce earlier than oaks. Our results also suggest that in the future EVI could improve because the rate of increase in minimum EVI is greater than the rate of decrease in maximum EVI, and that this is contingent on management of the shrub understorey as it affects the rate of decrease in maximum EVI. This will be the challenge for the persistence of cork oak woodlands, their associated biodiversity and social-ecological system. View Full-Text
Keywords: cork oak; time series; Landsat; Enhanced Vegetation Index; inter-annual variability; climate; biodiversity cork oak; time series; Landsat; Enhanced Vegetation Index; inter-annual variability; climate; biodiversity
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Santos, M.J.; Baumann, M.; Esgalhado, C. Drivers of Productivity Trends in Cork Oak Woodlands over the Last 15 Years. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 486.

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