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Remote sensing the orographic effects of dry-hot valley on vegetation distribution in the southeast Tibetan Plateau

Zhang, Wenjiang, Liu, Li, Song, Kechao, Li, Xiaodong, Wang, Yidong, Tang, Yi, Jiang, Huiru
International journal of remote sensing 2019 v.40 no.22 pp. 8589-8607
altitude, deuterium oxide, ecosystems, global warming, heat, mountains, population distribution, remote sensing, rivers, satellites, surface temperature, valleys, vapors, vegetation cover, vegetation index, water stress, wind, China
Mountains in the southeast Tibetan Plateau (TP) often intercept and precipitate abundant monsoon-transported vapours, but some deep valleys of this region are likely subjected to heavy water stress possibly related to orographic effects. Understanding the orographic effects of these dry-hot valleys (DHV) on vegetation distribution is crucial to project local ecological response to global warming. In the study, we used multiple satellite observations with limited in-situ records to investigate the links between vegetation cover and geomorphology in the southeast TP. We designed two types of transects to distinguish altitudinal properties of heat and vegetation between the DHV and non-DHV areas with satellite-retrieved enhanced vegetation index and land surface temperature (LST). Our results showed that the DHVs are characterized by the seemingly ‘abnormal’ decreasing of vegetation density from intermediate elevation simultaneously towards both ridge and valley. The significant increase in LST lapse rate with valley depth (1.8 × 10⁻³°C km⁻¹ m⁻¹, p < 0.01) suggested the positive role of local valley wind system in the DHV development. Satellite observations revealed that there are, respectively, about 530, 420, and 300 km of DHVs developed in the Nujiang, Lancangjiang, and upper Yangtze rivers, and the DHVs are mostly deeper than 1600 m. Current global warming may lead to the altitudinal expansion of DHV dry and hot effects on local ecosystems, which should be carefully accounted in local ecosystem conservation and management.