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Contrasting vegetation changes in dry and humid regions of the Tibetan Plateau over recent decades

Journal article
Authors R. Q. Li
Y. H. Gao
Deliang Chen
Y. X. Zhang
S. S. Li
Published in Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions
Volume 10
Issue 6
Pages 482-492
ISSN 1674-3822
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 482-492
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.3724/sp.J.1226.2018.0...
Keywords Tibetan Plateau, vegetation change, leaf area index, climate change, leaf-area index, growing-season, climate, temperature, trends, Physical Geography
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Physical Geography

Abstract

An overall greening over the Tibetan Plateau (TP) in recent decades has been established through analyses of remotely sensed Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), though the regional pattern of the changes and associated drivers remain to be explored. This study used a satellite Leaf Area Index (LAI) dataset (the GLASS LAI dataset) and examined vegetation changes in humid and arid regions of the TP during 1982-2012. Based on distributions of the major vegetation types, the TP was divided roughly into a humid southeastern region dominated by meadow and a dry northwestern region covered mainly by steppe. It was found that the dividing line between the two regions corresponded well with the lines of mean annual precipitation of 400 mm and the mean LAI of 0.3. LAI=0.3 was subsequently used as a threshold for investigating vegetation type changes at the interanual and decadal time scales: if LAI increased from less than 0.3 to greater than 0.3 from one time period to the next, it was regarded as a change from steppe to meadow, and vice versa. The analysis shows that changes in vegetation types occurred primarily around the dividing line of the two regions, with clear growth (reduction) of the area covered by meadow (steppe), in consistency with the findings from using another independent satellite product. Surface air temperature and precipitation (diurnal temperature range) appeared to contribute positively (negatively) to this change though climate variables displayed varying correlation with LAI for different time periods and different regions.

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