The response of vegetation dynamics of the different alpine grassland types to temperature and precipitation on the Tibetan Plateau



The spatiotemporal variability of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) of three vegetation types (alpine steppe, alpine meadow, and alpine desert steppe) across the Tibetan Plateau was analyzed from 1982 to 2013. In addition, the annual mean temperature (MAT) and annual mean precipitation (MAP) trends were quantified to define the spatiotemporal climate patterns. Meanwhile, the relationships between climate factors and NDVI were analyzed in order to understand the impact of climate change on vegetation dynamics. The results indicate that the maximum of NDVI increased by 0.3 and 0.2 % per 10 years in the entire regions of alpine steppe and alpine meadow, respectively. However, no significant change in the NDVI of the alpine desert steppe has been observed since 1982. A negative relationship between NDVI and MAT was found in all these alpine grassland types, while MAP positively impacted the vegetation dynamics of all grasslands. Also, the effects of temperature and precipitation on different vegetation types differed, and the correlation coefficient for MAP and NDVI in alpine meadow is larger than that for other vegetation types. We also explored the percentages of precipitation and temperature influence on NDVI variation, using redundancy analysis at the observation point scale. The results show that precipitation is a primary limiting factor for alpine vegetation dynamic, rather than temperature. Most importantly, the results can serve as a tool for grassland ecosystem management.


Vegetation dynamics Alpine grassland Normalized difference vegetation index Precipitation Temperature Tibetan Plateau 



We thank the China Meteorological Data Sharing Service System and the Western Data Center for providing meteorological data and the AVHRR GIMMS3g NDVI dataset, respectively. This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 41501057), West Light Foundation of The Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Open Fund of the Key Laboratory of Mountain Surface Processes and Eco-regulation.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Land and ResourcesChina West Normal UniversityNanchongChina
  3. 3.Center for Environmental Remediation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of ScienceBeijingChina

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