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The contribution of brown vegetation to vegetation dynamics

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Indices of vegetation dynamics that include both green vegetation (GV) and non-photosynthetic vegetation (NPV), that is, brown vegetation, were applied to MODIS surface reflectance data from 2000 to 2006 for the southwestern United States. These indices reveal that the cover of NPV, a measure of vegetation brownness and a component of ecosystems worldwide, is highly variable in both space and time in the study region. In the more mesic regions of the study area, the timing of peaks in NPV appears to result from simple senescence of GV at the end of the growing season. In these regions, the amplitude of GV cyclicity dominates the total vegetation signal. In contrast, in arid and semiarid regions, the amplitude of cyclicity of NPV dominates the total vegetation signal, showing the vegetation of these regions to be unexpectedly dynamic. Shrublands of southwestern United States exhibit temporal behavior in which the annual peak in NPV cover precedes the annual peak in GV cover by a few months. Several explanations for this behavior are offered. This study shows the importance of vegetation indices that include NPV, or vegetation brownness, in understanding terrestrial ecosystem dynamics, as well as the response to change for these ecosystems.
Gregory S. Okin
USDA Scientist Submission
Ecology 2010 v.91 no.3
Ecological Society of America
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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