Land Surface Phenology of North American Mountain Environments Using the Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer

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Virginia Tech


Monitoring and understanding plant phenology is becoming an increasingly important way to identify and model global changes in vegetation life cycle events. Although numerous studies have used synoptically sensed data to study phenological patterns at the continental and global scale, relatively few have focused on characterizing the land surface phenology of specific ecosystems. Mountain environments provide excellent examples of how variations in topography, elevation, solar radiation, temperature, and spatial location affect vegetation phenology. High elevation biomes cover twenty percent of the Earth's land surface and provide essential resources to both the human and non-human population. These areas experience limited resource availability for plant growth, development, and reproduction, and are one of the first ecosystems to reflect the harmful impact of climate change. Despite this, the phenology of mountain ecosystems has historically been understudied due to the rough and variable terrain and inaccessibility of the area. Here, we use two MODIS/Terra satellite 16-day products, Vegetation Index and Nadir BRDF Adjusted Reflectance, to assess start of season (SOS) for the 2007 calendar year. Independent data for elevation, slope, aspect, solar radiation, and temperature as well as longitude and latitude were then related to the SOS output. Based on the results of these analyses, we found that SOS can be predicted with a significant R² (0.55-0.64) for each individual zone as well as the entire western mountain range. While both elevation and latitude have significant influences on the timing of SOS for all six study areas. When examined at the regional scale and accounting for aspect, SOS follows closely with Hopkins' findings in regard to both elevation and latitude.



Land surface phenology, MODIS, NDVI, NDII, start of season