The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Assessing the impact of seasonal precipitation and temperature on vegetation in a grass-dominated rangeland

Fang Chen A B C and Keith T. Weber B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Key Laboratory of Digital Earth Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100094, China.

B GIS Training and Research Centre, Idaho State University, 921 S. 8th Avenue, Stop 8104, Pocatello, ID 83209-8104, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: chenfang@radi.ac.cn

The Rangeland Journal 36(2) 185-190 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ13098
Submitted: 25 September 2013  Accepted: 13 February 2014   Published: 3 April 2014

Abstract

Changes in vegetation are affected by many climatic factors and have been successfully monitored through satellite remote sensing over the past 20 years. In this study, the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) onboard the Terra satellite, was selected as an indicator of change in vegetation. Monthly MODIS composite NDVI at a 1-km resolution was acquired throughout the 2004–09 growing seasons (i.e. April–September). Data describing daily precipitation and temperature, primary factors affecting vegetation growth in the semiarid rangelands of Idaho, were derived from the Surface Observation Gridding System and local weather station datasets. Inter-annual and seasonal fluctuations of precipitation and temperature were analysed and temporal relationships between monthly NDVI, precipitation and temperature were examined. Results indicated NDVI values observed in June and July were strongly correlated with accumulated precipitation (R2 >0.75), while NDVI values observed early in the growing season (May) as well as late in the growing season (August and September) were only moderately related with accumulated precipitation (R2 ≥0.45). The role of ambient temperature was also apparent, especially early in the growing season. Specifically, early growing-season temperatures appeared to significantly affect plant phenology and, consequently, correlations between NDVI and accumulated precipitation. It is concluded that precipitation during the growing season is a better predictor of NDVI than temperature but is interrelated with influences of temperature in parts of the growing season.

Additional keywords: growing degree-days, NDVI, periodic accumulated precipitation, Surface Observation Gridding System, vegetation indices.


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