Desanker, G; Dahlin, KM; Finley, AO (2020). Environmental controls on Landsat-derived phenoregions across an East African megatransect. ECOSPHERE, 11(5), e03143.

Semiarid and savanna-type (SAST) ecosystems in East Africa have unique plant species compositions and characteristics that make quantifying this biome's seasonality and interannual variability difficult. Phenoregion classification offers a way to use seasonality of vegetation growth to help understand the phenological spatial patterns of complex landscapes. Here, we used Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) time series from Landsat 8 to map phenoregions in scenes centered around national parks from Mt. Kenya National Park (Kenya) to Limpopo National Park (Mozambique). We then assessed whether landscape-scale controls on phenology are consistent across the region or whether they vary across this latitudinal gradient. We compared our phenoregion maps to MODIS Land Cover and geology, and we used multinomial logistic regression to determine the role that elevation, slope, aspect, and geology play in driving phenological differences. The sites' phenoregions showed no unique land cover composition, suggesting that MODIS land cover does not capture the subtle variations identified in phenoregion analysis. Multinomial logistic regression showed that geographic trend (x- and y-directions) was a strong predictor in four of the five landscapes and that, depending on the scene, geology, elevation, or aspect was a strong secondary predictor. Using seasonality of the NDVI time series to generate phenoregions provides different and, in some cases, more ecologically relevant information, compared to vegetation maps that use only land cover from a single season or time period to generate ecoregions. With a significant population of humans and animals that live in and depend on SAST ecosystems, it is important to better understand vegetation processes and factors that affect them as climate change becomes an increasingly pertinent issue in dry systems.