Vegetation phenology manifests the rhythm of annual plant life activities. It has been extensively studied in natural ecosystems. However, major knowledge gaps still exist in understanding the impacts of urbanization on vegetation phenology. This study addresses two questions to fill the knowledge gaps: (1) How does vegetation phenology vary spatially and temporally along a rural-to-urban transect in Shanghai, China, over the past three decades? (2) How do landscape composition and configuration affect those variations of vegetation phenology? To answer these questions, 30 m × 30 m mean vegetation phenology metrics, including the start of growing season (SOS), end of growing season (EOS), and length of growing season (LOS), were derived for urban vegetation using dense stacks of enhanced vegetation index (EVI) time series from images collected by Landsat 5–8 satellites from 1984 to 2015. Landscape pattern metrics were calculated using high spatial resolution aerial photos. We then used Pearson correlation analysis to quantify the associations between phenology patterns and landscape metrics. We found that vegetation in urban centers experienced advances of SOS for 5–10 days and delays of EOS for 5–11 days compared with those located in the surrounding rural areas. Additionally, we observed strong positive correlations between landscape composition (percentage of landscape area) of developed land and LOS of urban vegetation. We also found that the landscape configuration of local land cover types, especially patch density and edge density, was significantly correlated with the spatial patterns of vegetation phenology. These results demonstrate that vegetation phenology in the urban area is significantly different from its rural surroundings. These findings have implications for urban environmental management, ranging from biodiversity protection to public health risk reduction.
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