Trends of land surface phenology derived from passive microwave and optical remote sensing systems and associated drivers across the dry tropics 1992–2012

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Changes in vegetation phenology are among the most sensitive biological responses to global change. While land surface phenological changes in the Northern Hemisphere have been extensively studied from the widely used long-term AVHRR (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer) data, current knowledge on land surface phenological trends and the associated drivers remains uncertain for the tropics. This uncertainty is partly due to the well-known challenges of applying satellite-derived vegetation indices from the optical domain in areas prone to frequent cloud cover. The long-term vegetation optical depth (VOD) product from satellite passive microwaves features less sensitivity to atmospheric perturbations and measures different vegetation traits and functioning as compared to optical sensors. VOD thereby provides an independent and complementary data source for studying land surface phenology and here we performed a combined analysis of the VOD and AVHRR NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) datasets for the dry tropics (25°N to 25°S) during 1992–2012. We find a general delay in the VOD derived start of season (SOS) and end of season (EOS) as compared to NDVI derived metrics, however with clear differences among land cover and continents. Pixels characterized by significant phenological trends (P < 0.05) account for up to 20% of the study area for each phenological metric of NDVI and VOD, with large spatial difference between the two sensor systems. About 50% of the pixels studied show significant phenological changes in either VOD or NDVI metrics. Drivers of phenological changes were assessed for pixels of high agreement between VOD and NDVI phenological metrics (serving as a means of reducing noise-related uncertainty). We find rainfall variability and woody vegetation change to be the main forcing variables of phenological trends for most of the dry tropical biomes, while fire events and land cover change are recognized as second-order drivers. Taken together, our study provides new insights on land surface phenological changes and the associated drivers in the dry tropics, as based on the complementary long-term data sources of VOD and NDVI, sensitive to changes in vegetation water content and greenness, respectively.

TidsskriftRemote Sensing of Environment
Antal sider12
StatusUdgivet - 2019

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