Title: Assessing the dynamics of vegetation productivity in circumpolar regions with different satellite indicators of greenness and photosynthesis
Citation: BIOGEOSCIENCES vol. 15 no. 20 p. 6221-6256
Publication Year: 2018
JRC N°: JRC111785
ISSN: 1726-4170
URI: https://www.biogeosciences.net/15/6221/2018/
DOI: 10.5194/bg-2018-196
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: High latitude treeless ecosystems represent spatially highly heterogeneous landscapes with small net carbon fluxes and a short growing season. Reliable observations and process understanding are critical for projections of the carbon balance of climate sensitive tundra. Spaceborne remote sensing is the only tool to obtain spatially continuous and temporally resolved information on vegetation greenness and activity in remote circumpolar areas. However, confounding effects from persistent clouds, low sun elevation angles, numerous lakes, widespread surface inundation, and the sparseness of the vegetation render it highly challenging. Productivity during the peak of the growing season importantly affects the total annual carbon uptake. Here, we conduct an extensive analysis of the timing of peak vegetation productivity as shown by satellite observations of complementary indicators of plant greenness and photosynthesis. The suite of indicators are: (1) MODIS-based vegetation indices (VIs) as proxies of the fraction of absorbed photosynthetically radiation; (2) VIs combined with estimates of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (APAR); (3) sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF) serving as a proxy for photosynthesis; (4) vegetation optical depth (VOD), indicative of total water content; and (5) empirically upscaled modelled gross primary productivity (GPP). Averaged over the pan-Arctic we find a clear order of the annual peak as APAR < GPP < SIF < VIs / VOD. SIF as an indicator of photosynthesis is maximized around the time of highest annual temperatures. Model GPP peaks at a similar time like APAR. The time lag of the annual peak between APAR and instantaneous SIF fluxes indicates that the SIF data do contain information on light-use efficiency of tundra vegetation, but further detailed studies are necessary to verify this. Delayed peak greenness compared to peak photosynthesis is consistently found across years and land cover classes. A particularly late peak of NDVI in regions with very small seasonality in greenness and a high amount of lakes probably originates from artefacts. Given the very short growing season in circumpolar areas, the average time difference in maximum annual photosynthetic activity and greenness/growth of 3 to 25 days (depending on the data sets chosen) is important and needs to be considered when using satellite observations as drivers in vegetation models.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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