Satellite-indicated long-term vegetation changes and their drivers on the Mongolian Plateau

Zhao, Xia; Hu, Huifeng; Shen, Haihua; Zhou, Daojing; Zhou, Liming; Myneni, Ranga; Fang, Jingyun
November 2015
Landscape Ecology;Nov2015, Vol. 30 Issue 9, p1599
Academic Journal
The Mongolian Plateau, comprising the nation of Mongolia and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, has been influenced by significant climatic changes and intensive human activities. Previous satellite-based analyses have suggested an increasing tendency in the vegetation cover over recent decades. However, several ground-based observations have indicated a decline in vegetation production. This study aimed to explore long-term changes in vegetation greenness and land surface phenology in relation to changes in temperature and precipitation on the Plateau between 1982 and 2011 using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Across the Plateau, a significantly positive trend in the growing season (May-September) NDVI was observed from 1982 to 1998, but since that time, the NDVI has not shown a persistent increase, thus causing an insignificant trend over the entire study period. For the steppe vegetation (a major vegetation type on the Plateau), the NDVI increased significantly in spring but decreased in summer. Precipitation was the dominant factor related to changes in steppe vegetation. Warming in spring contributed to earlier vegetation green-up only in meadow steppe vegetation, implying that water deficiency in typical and desert steppe vegetation may eliminate the effect of warming. Our results also suggest a combined effect of climatic and non-climatic factors and highlight the need to examine the role of regional human activities in the control of vegetation dynamics.


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