|Published in||Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, v. 188(12):1-14|
Glade, F.E., Miranda, M.D., Meza, F.J. and van Leeuwen, W.J.D.
Time series of vegetation indices and remotely sensed phenological data offer insights about the patterns in vegetation dynamics. Both are useful sources of information for analyzing and monitoring ecosystem responses to environmental variations caused by natural and anthropogenic drivers. In the semi-arid region of Chile, climate variability and recent severe droughts in addition to land-use changes pose threats to the stability of local ecosystems. Normalized difference vegetation index time series (2000-2013) data from the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) was processed to monitor the trends and patterns of vegetation productivity and phenology observed over the last decade. An analysis of the relationship between (i) vegetation productivity and (ii) precipitation and temperature data for representative natural land-use cover classes was made. Using these data and ground measurements, productivity estimates were projected for two climate change scenarios (RCP2.6 and RCP8.5) at two altitudinal levels. Results showed negative trends of vegetation productivity below 2000 m a.s.l. and positive trends for higher elevations. Phenology analysis suggested that mountainous ecosystems were starting their growing period earlier in the season, coinciding with a decreased productivity peak during the growing season. The coastal shrubland/grassland land cover class had a significant positive relation with rainfall and a significant negative relation with temperature, suggesting that these ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change. Future productivity projections indicate that under an RCP8.5 climate change scenario, productivity could decline by 12% in the period of 2060-2100, leading to a severe vegetation degradation at lower altitudes and in drier areas.