Ma, YJ; Shi, FZ; Hu, X; Li, XY (2020). Threshold Vegetation Greenness under Water Balance in Different Desert Areas over the Silk Road Economic Belt. REMOTE SENSING, 12(15), 2452.

The sustainability of dryland vegetation growth over the Silk Road Economic Belt is under threat of water shortage, and the determination of water carrying capacity for vegetation is critically essential to balance water supply and water demand for the maintenance of existing ecosystems. To better understand how and why vegetation growth varies in different desert areas, this study first analyzed the spatiotemporal variation of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Then, we investigated the relationship between NDVI and climatic factors (precipitation, soil water content, air temperature, evapotranspiration), and estimated the threshold NDVI under water balance in different desert areas. Results showed that the higher NDVI was mainly distributed in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Azerbaijan, and it increased in approximately 53% of desert areas from 1982 to 2015 in the whole study region. The mean annual NDVI showed a simultaneous increasing trend in all desert areas from 1982 to 1994, and decreased significantly only in the cold arid desert area (p< 0.01, -0.0067 decade(-1)) or had no significant change in other desert areas after 1994 (p> 0.01). The climate condition generally appeared as a warming and drying trend in the past 34 years, with varied changing rates in different desert areas. NDVI presented a strong positive relationship with both precipitation and evapotranspiration in most desert areas. The threshold values of the mean annual NDVI under water balance between 1982 and 2015 were approximately 0.1041 (hot arid desert), 0.1337 (cold arid desert), 0.1346 (cold arid semi-desert), 0.0951 (hot arid desert semi-desert), 0.0776 (polar desert tundra), 0.1071 (hot arid desert shrub), 0.1377 (cold arid desert steppe), and 0.0701 (polar desert steppe), respectively. The responses of these threshold values to precipitation were all positive in different desert areas. These results provide an enhanced understanding of vegetation dynamics and ecological conservation, which are of great importance to implementing adaptation and mitigation measures for terrestrial ecosystems over the Silk Road Economic Belt.