Reflectance assessment of seasonal and annual changes in biomass and CO<inf>2</inf> uptake of a Mediterranean shrubland submitted to experimental warming and drought

Iolanda Filella, Josep Peñuelas, Laura Llorens, Marc Estiarte

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    We aimed to evaluate how the remote sensing vegetation indices NDVI and PRI responded to seasonal and annual changes in an early successional stage Mediterranean coastal shrubland canopy that was submitted to experimental warming and drought simulating predicted climate change for the next decades. These conditions were obtained by using a new non-intrusive methodological approach that increases the temperature and prolongs the drought period by using roofs that automatically cover the vegetation after the sunset or when it rains. On average, warming increased air temperature by 0.7°C and soil temperature by 1.6°C, and the drought treatment reduced soil moisture by 22%. We measured spectral reflectance at the canopy level and at the individual plant level seasonally during 4 years. Shrubland NDVI tracked the community development and activity. In control and warming treatments, NDVI increased with the years while it did not change in the drought treatment. There was a good relationship between NDVI and both community and individual plant biomass. NDVI also decreased in summer seasons when some species dry or decolour. The NDVI of E. multiflora plant individuals was lower in autumn and winter than in the other seasons, likely because of flowering. Shrubland PRI decreased only in winter, similarly to the PRI of the most dominant species, G. alypum. At this community scale, NDVI was better related than PRI to photosynthetic activity, probably because photosynthetic fluxes followed canopy seasonal greening in this complex canopy, which includes brevideciduous, annual and evergreen species and variable morphologies and canopy coverage. PRI followed the seasonal variations in photosynthetic rates in E. multiflora and detected the decreased photosynthetic rates of drought treatment. However, PRI did not track the photosynthetic rates of G. alypum plants which have lower LAIs than E. multiflora. In this community, which is in its early successional stages, NDVI was able to track biomass, and indirectly, CO2 uptake changes, likely because LAI values did not saturate NDVI. Thus, NDVI appears as a valid tool for remote tracking of this community development. PRI was less adequate for photosynthetic assessment of this community especially for its lower LAI canopies. PRI usefulness was also species-dependent and could also be affected by flowering. These results will help to improve the interpretation of remote sensing information on the structure and physiological status of these Mediterranean shrublands, and to gain better insight on ecological and environmental controls on their ecosystem carbon dioxide exchange. They also show the possibility of assessing the impacts of climate change on shrubland communities. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)308-318
    JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2004


    • Climate change
    • Erica multiflora
    • Flowering
    • Globularia alypum
    • NDVI
    • PRI


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