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NDVI indicated long-term interannual changes in vegetation activities and their responses to climatic and anthropogenic factors in the Three Gorges Reservoir Region, China

Wen, Zhaofei, Wu, Shengjun, Chen, Jilong, Lü, Mingquan
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.574 pp. 947-959
agricultural land, anthropogenic activities, climatic factors, data collection, ecological restoration, ecosystems, forests, mechanics, monitoring, normalized difference vegetation index, population density, temperature, transmission electron microscopy, urbanization, China
Natural and social environmental changes in the China's Three Gorges Reservoir Region (TGRR) have received worldwide attention. Identifying interannual changes in vegetation activities in the TGRR is an important task for assessing the impact these changes have on the local ecosystem. We used long-term (1982–2011) satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) datasets and climatic and anthropogenic factors to analyze the spatiotemporal patterns of vegetation activities in the TGRR, as well as their links to changes in temperature (TEM), precipitation (PRE), downward radiation (RAD), and anthropogenic activities. At the whole TGRR regional scale, a statistically significant overall uptrend in NDVI variations was observed in 1982–2011. More specifically, there were two distinct periods with different trends split by a breakpoint in 1991: NDVI first sharply increased prior to 1991, and then showed a relatively weak rate of increase after 1991. At the pixel scale, most parts of the TGRR experienced increasing NDVI before the 1990s but different trend change types after the 1990s: trends were positive in forests in the northeastern parts, but negative in farmland in southwest parts of the TGRR. The TEM warming trend was the main climate-related driver of uptrending NDVI variations pre-1990s, and decreasing PRE was the main climate factor (42%) influencing the mid-western farmland areas' NDVI variations post-1990s. We also found that anthropogenic factors such as population density, man-made ecological restoration, and urbanization have notable impacts on the TGRR's NDVI variations. For example, large overall trend slopes in NDVI were more likely to appear in TGRR regions with large fractions of ecological restoration within the last two decades. The findings of this study may help to build a better understanding of the mechanics of NDVI variations in the periods before and during TGDP construction for ongoing ecosystem monitoring and assessment in the post-TGDP period.