Olthof, I, Pouliot, D (2010). Treeline vegetation composition and change in Canada's western Subarctic from AVHRR and canopy reflectance modeling. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, 114(4), 805-815.
Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on northern vegetation, particularly along transition zones such as the treeline. Studies of vegetation composition and change in this ecotone have largely focussed on local analysis of individual trees using labour intensive stand reconstruction techniques, which are spatially limited and do not consider vegetation types other than trees. Remote sensing may be well suited to monitoring recent changes across the treeline because it captures integrated changes of all vegetation life forms over large spatial extents. This research examines treeline vegetation composition and change along the western subarctic treeline mapped by Timoney et al. (1992) using a 1 km resolution, 22-year AVHRR archive from 1985-2006. While most remote sensing studies on vegetation change in arctic and subarctic regions only exploit information contained in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), we examine long-term reflectance trends in AVHRR bands 1 and 2 in addition to NDVI. The GeoSail canopy reflectance model is used to map treeline composition by combining information from 22-year summertime and early springtime composite images. A set of spectral change vectors are then generated from GeoSail simulations and used to classify trends in AVHRR along the treeline to estimate vegetation change. Evaluation of vegetation composition against the MODIS Vegetation Continuous Fields (VCF) product that has been recently validated along the treeline reveals good spatial correspondence. Temporal trends are shown to agree with literature on tundra-taiga vegetation dynamics in recent decades. Evidence is presented that suggests replacement of bare surfaces with herb, conifer decline along the southern treeline, increased shrubiness, and increased conifer recruitment and growth in the north. Crown Copyright (C) 2009 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.