Satellite observations of high northern latitude vegetation productivity changes between 1982 and 2008: ecological variability and regional differences Academic Article uri icon


  • To assess ongoing changes in high latitude vegetation productivity we compared spatiotemporal patterns in remotely sensed vegetation productivity in the tundra and boreal zones of North America and Eurasia. We compared the long-term GIMMS (Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies) NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) to the more recent and advanced MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) NDVI data set, and mapped circumpolar trends in a gross productivity metric derived from the former. We then analyzed how temporal changes in productivity differed along an evergreen-deciduous gradient in boreal Alaska, along a shrub cover gradient in Arctic Alaska, and during succession after fire in boreal North America and northern Eurasia. We find that the earlier reported contrast between trends of increasing tundra and decreasing boreal forest productivity has amplified in recent years, particularly in North America. Decreases in boreal forest productivity are most prominent in areas of denser tree cover and, particularly in Alaska, evergreen forest stands. On the North Slope of Alaska, however, increases in tundra productivity do not appear restricted to areas of higher shrub cover, which suggests enhanced productivity across functional vegetation types. Differences in the recovery of post-disturbance vegetation productivity between North America and Eurasia are described using burn chronosequences, and the potential factors driving regional differences are discussed.

publication date

  • October 1, 2011