SHA Zongyao1,2, ZHONG Jialin1, BAI Yongfei3, TAN Xicheng1, Jonathan LI2
phenological timing; degradation; harmonic analysis; human activity; climate; restoratio
Spatio-temporal variations of vegetation phenology, e.g. start of green-up season (SOS) and end of vegetation season (EOS), serve as important indicators of ecosystems. Routinely processed products from remotely sensed imagery, such as the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), can be used to map such variations. A remote sensing approach to tracing vegetation phenology was demonstrated here in application to the Inner Mongolia grassland, China. SOS and EOS mapping at regional and vegetation type (meadow steppe, typical steppe, desert steppe and steppe desert) levels using SPOT-VGT NDVI series allows new insights into the grassland ecosystem. The spatial and temporal variability of SOS and EOS during 1998–2012 was highlighted and presented, as were SOS and EOS responses to the monthly climatic fluctuations. Results indicated that SOS and EOS did not exhibit consistent shifts at either regional or vegetation type level; the one exception was the steppe desert, the least productive vegetation cover, which exhibited a progressive earlier SOS and later EOS. Monthly average temperature and precipitation in preseason (February, March and April) imposed most remarkable and negative effects on SOS (except for the non-significant impact of precipitation on that of the meadow steppe), while the climate impact on EOS was found to vary considerably between the vegetation types. Results showed that the spatio-temporal variability of the vegetation phenology of the meadow steppe, typical steppe and desert steppe could be reflected by the monthly thermal and hydrological factors but the progressive earlier SOS and later EOS of the highly degraded steppe desert might be accounted for by non-climate factors only, suggesting that the vegetation growing period in the highly degraded areas of the grassland could be extended possibly by human interventions.