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Nemani, R, Hashimoto, H, Votava, P, Melton, F, Wang, WL, Michaelis, A, Mutch, L, Milesi, C, Hiatt, S, White, M (2009). Monitoring and forecasting ecosystem dynamics using the Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS). REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, 113(7), 1497-1509.

We present an approach for monitoring and forecasting landscape level indicators of the condition of protected area (PA) ecosystems including changes in snowcover, vegetation phenology and productivity using the Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS). TOPS is a modeling framework that integrates operational satellite data, microclimate mapping, and ecosystem simulation models to characterize ecosystem status and trends. We have applied TOPS to investigate trends and patterns in landscape indicators using test cases at both national and park-level scales to demonstrate the potential utility of TOPS for supporting efforts by the National Park Service to develop standardized indicators for protected area monitoring. Our analysis of coarse resolution satellite-derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) measurements for North America from 1982-2006 indicates that all but a few PAs are located in areas that exhibited a sustained decline in vegetation condition. We used Yosemite National Park as our park-level test case, and while no significant trends in NDVI were detected during the same period, evidence of drought-induced vegetation mortality and recovery patterns dominated the 25 year record. In our Yosemite analysis, we show that analyzing MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) products (vegetation indices, absorbed radiation, land surface temperature and gross primary production) in conjunction with ground-based measurements, such as runoff, lends additional utility to satellite-based monitoring of ecosystems indicators, as together they provide a comprehensive view of ecosystem condition. Analyses of MODIS products from 2001-2006 show that year-to-year changes in the onset of spring at Yosemite were as large as 45 days, and this signal in the satellite data record is corroborated by observed changes in spring runoff patterns. Finally, we applied TOPS to assess long-term climate impacts on ecosystem condition at the scale of an individual park. When driven by projected climatic changes at Yosemite of 4-6 degrees C warming by 2100 with no changes in precipitation patterns, TOPS predicts significantly reduced winter snowpack and an earlier onset of the growing season, resulting in prolonged summer drought and reduced vegetation productivity. Published by Elsevier Inc.



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