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    Author(s): Robert R. Pattison; Janet C. Jorgenson; Martha K. Raynolds; Jeffery M. Welker
    Date: 2015
    Source: Ecosystems June 2015
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (794.0 KB)


    As Arctic ecosystems experience increases in surface air temperatures, plot-level analyses of tundra vegetation composition suggest that there are important changes occurring in tundra communities that are typified by increases in shrubs and declines in non-vascular species. At the same time analyses of NDVI indicate that the Arctic tundra is greening. Few studies have combined plot-level trends in species composition and cover with remote sensing measurements to understand the linkages between tundra vegetation dynamics and NDVI over time. This study reports on trends in species composition for field plots in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in NE Alaska from 1984 to 2009 and links these trends to the trends in NDVI at fine and coarse scales. Over this time frame there were few changes in plant community composition. None of the five tundra types that were measured had increases in total vegetative cover, and deciduous shrub cover did not show the large increases reported elsewhere. Surface-(plot) measured NDVI was positively correlated to deciduous and evergreen shrub composition suggesting that these functional groups had a strong influence on NDVI values. Modeled values of NDVI, derived from measures of deciduous and evergreen shrub composition over time, decreased slightly for tussock tundra but did not change for other tundra types. This result suggests that surface NDVI did not change over time on these tundra types. Fine-scale (30-m pixels) Landsat NDVI also did not show any changes for the pixels located at the permanent plots (1992–2009). However, coarse-scale (8-km pixels) AVHRR NDVI across the study area did increase (1988–2007). Furthermore, aggregate values of Landsat pixels matching the same area as AVHRR pixels also did not show significant changes over time. Although Landsat NDVI was consistent with surface-measured NDVI, AVHRR NDVI was not. AVHRR NDVI values showed increases that were in neither the field nor Landsat data. This result suggests that AVHRR may be demonstrating increasing trends in NDVI that are not occurring on the ground in some Arctic tundra ecosystems. These results highlight the need to combine remote sensing with on-the-ground measurements of plant community composition and NDVI in the analysis of the responses of Arctic tundra ecosystems to climate change.

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    Pattison, Robert R.; Jorgenson, Janet C.; Raynolds, Martha K.; Welker, Jeffery M. 2015. Trends in NDVI and tundra community composition in the Arctic of NE Alaska between 1984 and 2009. Ecosystems. 18(4): 707-719.


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    tundra, NDVI, shrubs, Arctic, climate change, warming

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