Extreme climate events frequently exert serious effects on terrestrial vegetation activity. However, these effects are still uncertain in widely distributed areas with different climate zones. Transect analysis is important to understand how terrestrial vegetation responds to climate change, especially extreme climate events, by substituting space for time. In this paper, seven extreme climate indices and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) are employed to examine changes in the extreme climate events and vegetation activity. To reduce the uncertainty of the NDVI, two satellite-derived NDVI datasets, including the third generation Global Inventory Monitoring and Modeling System (GIMMS-3g) NDVI dataset and the NDVI from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites on Star Web Servers (SWS), were employed to capture changes in vegetation activity. The impacts of climate extremes on vegetation activity were then assessed over the period of 1982–2012 using the North–South Transect of Eastern China (NSTEC) as a case. The results show that vegetation activity was overall strengthened from 1982 to 2012 in the NSTEC. In addition, extreme high temperature events revealed an increased trend of approximately 5.15 days per decade, while a weakened trend (not significant) was found in extreme cold temperature events. The strengthened vegetation activities could be associated with enhanced extreme high temperature events and weakened extreme cold temperature events over the past decades in most of the NSTEC. Despite this, inversed changes were also found locally between vegetation activity and extreme climate events (e.g., in the Northeast Plain). These phenomena could be associated with differences in vegetation type, human activity, as well as the combined effects of the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events. This study highlights the importance of accounting for the vital roles of extreme climate effects on vegetation activity.
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