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Vegetation phenology and its variations in the Tibetan Plateau, China

Liang, Sihai, Lv, Canbin, Wang, Guangjun, Feng, Yuqing, Wu, Qingbai, Wan, Li, Tong, Yuanqing
International journal of remote sensing 2019 v.40 no.9 pp. 3323-3343
alpine vegetation, climate change, inventories, models, normalized difference vegetation index, phenology, remote sensing, China
Understanding the vegetation phenology and its variations in the Tibetan Plateau is critical to the study of ecological responses to global climate change. In this study, several pre-processed methods or techniques were applied to filter the Global Inventory Modelling and Mapping Study’s Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (GIMMS NDVI) data from 1982 to 2006, and construct the daily NDVI series. Firstly, vegetation and non-vegetation were determined by NDVI quantity contour, and cloud-covered pixels were also eliminated by NDVI change characteristics in a year. Then, the NDVI series were filtered by three-standard deviation and Savitzky-Golay method. Finally, the Savitzky–Golay method was employed to fit and construct the daily NDVI series. These methods guarantee a more reliable subsequent calculation of subsequent vegetation phenology. The vegetation phenology parameters including the start of growth season (SOG), the end of growth season (EOG), the lengths of growth season (LOG) and the absolute increase in vegetation (AIV), defined as the difference between the maximum NDVI and the NDVI for SOG in a year, were derived from the daily NDVI series based on the maximum ratio threshold method and their variations were analysed. The results showed that the SOGs were gradually delayed from the southeast to the northwest of the Tibetan Plateau, but the distribution pattern of the EOGs was opposite to that of the SOGs. From 1982 to 2006, SOGs were advanced approximately 3–18 days and EOGs delayed around 0–24 days in the southeast, whereas AIVs decreased around 0–0.3. In the northwest, these phenology parameters followed inverse trends compared with those of the southeast. Over the 25-year period, LOG changes had no constructive or active effects on the vegetation absolute increase. These complex phenological shifts were mainly due to the spatial differences in the environmental changes. However, in some extent, they might be related to the vegetation itself, such as its fractional cover. These findings may help to understand the alpine vegetation responds to climate change in the Tibetan Plateau.