Responses of vegetation to climate change in the headwaters of China’s Yellow River Basin based on zoning of dry and wet climate (2011)

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Aims Precipitation and temperature are considered the limiting factors to vegetation growth in arid and cold areas, respectively. Our objective was to study the trends in vegetation cover and productivity and their relationships with prevailing hydrothermal factors in order to better understand climatic constraints on regional vegetation dynamics.Methods We zoned dry and wet climates using daily meteorological data from 1959 to 2008 at 16 locations in the headwaters of the Yellow River Basin to calculate the ratio of precipitation to evapotranspiration estimated with the FAO Penman-Monteith model. Based on this zoning, the temporal dynamics of vegetation and changes in climate were analyzed using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) obtained from the NASA AVHRR sensor (1982–2006) and the GLOPEM net primary productivity (NPP) (1981–2000) and corresponding annual meteorological data. Then we developed the relationships between NDVI and NPP and climatic factors.Important findings The region studied is semi-humid in the southeast and semi-arid elsewhere, with a boundary nearly matching the 450 mm rainfall contour. The weather became wetter and especially warmer in most parts of the region during 1981–2006. The regional average NDVI and NPP markedly increased in semi-humid areas and slightly increased in semi-arid areas. Overall, NDVI had a significantly positive correlation with mean annual air temperature and a mainly negative correlation with mean annual precipitation in most semi-humid areas. The most important factor influencing NDVI was heat. In contrast, the key climatic factor affecting vegetation changes in the semi-arid areas was water, the relationship between NDVI and precipitation was strong and vegetation was more sensitive to changes in precipitation. The impact of climate change on NPP was similar to that on NDVI. Findings suggest that the responses of vegetation to climate change depend in part on the hydrothermal conditions of the region, and the zoning of dry and wet climate illustrates the spatial difference of vegetation feedback to climate change.
Year: 2011
Language: English
In: Chinese Journal of Plant Ecology, 35 (11): 1192-1201 p.

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 Record created 2012-01-31, last modified 2013-01-17