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Satellite-based analysis of regional evapotranspiration trends in a semi-arid area

Jin, Xiaomei, Zhu, Xiaoqian, Xue, Yang
International journal of remote sensing 2019 v.40 no.9 pp. 3267-3288
agricultural land, algorithms, cropping systems, energy balance, environmental factors, evapotranspiration, land cover, normalized difference vegetation index, remote sensing, satellites, semiarid zones, shrubs, time series analysis, urban areas, vegetation, water budget, water management, wetlands, China, Yellow River
A regional framework for a spatial and temporal distributed assessment of time series trends in the hydrological variable and its related ecological factors of an arid area was presented in this research. To achieve this, we tested the Surface Energy Balance System (SEBS) algorithm for estimating evapotranspiration (ET) in regional scale and the result was further validated by water budget. The ET assessment was applied for the Yinchuan and Weining (YW) Plains (China), the upstream areas of the Yellow River. Moreover, we analysed the recent trends (from year 2001 to 2014) in actual ET, normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), farmland and wetland using a combination of remote sensing and ground observations. The results illustrated that the yearly ET of 78% areas has no change during the study period and the areas with decreasing ET are larger than the areas with increasing trend. The highest decreasing rate is observed in urban areas and the value is –20 mm year–¹, while the rate of increasing trend is especially higher in the wetlands reaching around 60 mm year–¹. This phenomenon can be explained by changes in NDVI, farmland and wetland. The distribution and magnitude of NDVI trends shows that the higher NDVI (NDVI > 0.4) area is occupied 56% and the farmland (NDVI > 0.55) covered about 35% of the YW Plains. The increasing trends of mean NDVI is mostly observed in farmland and shrub covers, while the decreasing NDVI areas are mainly wetlands and urban area. The emerging image showed that the greening trend of vegetation and variation of evapotranspiration in the YW Plains are related to land-cover changes and to the adjustment of crop pattern for agriculture. The increasing of wetland area is also believed as a cause related to evapotranspiration change. Such spatiotemporally distributed analysis in regional level is important for water management at this scale, which can be also applied to other similar areas.