Hwang, T; Song, CH; Vose, JM; Band, LE (2011). Topography-mediated controls on local vegetation phenology estimated from MODIS vegetation index. LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY, 26(4), 541-556.
Forest canopy phenology is an important constraint on annual water and carbon budgets, and responds to regional interannual climate variation. In steep terrain, there are complex spatial variations in phenology due to topographic influences on microclimate, community composition, and available soil moisture. In this study, we investigate spatial patterns of phenology in humid temperate forest as a function of topography. Moderate-resolution imaging spectro-radiometer (MODIS) vegetation indices are used to derive local patterns of topography-mediated vegetation phenology using a simple post-processing analysis and a non-linear model fitting. Elevation has the most explanatory power for all phenological variables with a strong linear relationship with mid-day of greenup period, following temperatures lapse rates. However, all other phenological variables show quadratic associations with elevation, reflecting an interaction between topoclimatic patterns of temperature and water availability. Radiation proxies also have significant explanatory power for all phenological variables. Though hillslope position cannot be adequately resolved at the MODIS spatial resolution (250 m) to discern impacts of local drainage conditions, extended periods of greenup/senescence are found to occur in wet years. These findings are strongly supported by previous field measurements at different topographic positions within the study area. The capability of detecting topography-mediated local phenology offers the potential to detect vegetation responses to climate change in mountainous terrain. In addition, the large, local variability of meteorological and edaphic conditions in steep terrain provides a unique opportunity to develop an understanding of canopy response to the interaction of climate and landscape conditions.