Zhang, GL; Xu, XL; Zhou, CP; Zhang, HB; Ouyang, H (2011). Responses of grassland vegetation to climatic variations on different temporal scales in Hulun Buir Grassland in the past 30 years. JOURNAL OF GEOGRAPHICAL SCIENCES, 21(4), 634-650.
Global warming has led to significant vegetation changes especially in the past 20 years. Hulun Buir Grassland in Inner Mongolia, one of the world's three prairies, is undergoing a process of prominent warming and drying. It is essential to investigate the effects of climatic change (temperature and precipitation) on vegetation dynamics for a better understanding of climatic change. NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index), reflecting characteristics of plant growth, vegetation coverage and biomass, is used as an indicator to monitor vegetation changes. GIMMS NDVI from 1981 to 2006 and MODIS NDVI from 2000 to 2009 were adopted and integrated in this study to extract the time series characteristics of vegetation changes in Hulun Buir Grassland. The responses of vegetation coverage to climatic change on the yearly, seasonal and monthly scales were analyzed combined with temperature and precipitation data of seven meteorological sites. In the past 30 years, vegetation coverage was more correlated with climatic factors, and the correlations were dependent on the time scales. On an inter-annual scale, vegetation change was better correlated with precipitation, suggesting that rainfall was the main factor for driving vegetation changes. On a seasonal-interannual scale, correlations between vegetation coverage change and climatic factors showed that the sensitivity of vegetation growth to the aqueous and thermal condition changes was different in different seasons. The sensitivity of vegetation growth to temperature in summers was higher than in the other seasons, while its sensitivity to rainfall in both summers and autumns was higher, especially in summers. On a monthly-interannual scale, correlations between vegetation coverage change and climatic factors during growth seasons showed that the response of vegetation changes to temperature in both April and May was stronger. This indicates that the temperature effect occurs in the early stage of vegetation growth. Correlations between vegetation growth and precipitation of the month before the current month, were better from May to August, showing a hysteresis response of vegetation growth to rainfall. Grasses get green and begin to grow in April, and the impacts of temperature on grass growth are obvious. The increase of NDVI in April may be due to climatic warming that leads to an advanced growth season. In summary, relationships between monthly-interannual variations of vegetation coverage and climatic factors represent the temporal rhythm controls of temperature and precipitation on grass growth largely.