Canadian Forest Service Publications

Indicators of vegetation productivity under a changing climate in British Columbia. 2015. Holmes, K.R., Coops, N.C., Nelson, T.A., Fontana, F., and Wulder, M.A. Applied Geography. Vol. 56, pp. 135-144.

Year: 2015

Available from: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35831

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2014.11.020

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Understanding the relationship between vegetation and climate is essential for predicting the impact of climate change on broad-scale landscape processes. Utilizing vegetation indicators derived from remotely sensed imagery, we present an approach to forecast shifts in the future distribution of vegetation. Remotely sensed metrics representing cumulative greenness, seasonality, and minimum cover have successfully been linked to species distributions over broad spatial scales. In this paper we developed models between a historical time series of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite imagery from 1987 to 2007 at 1 km spatial resolution with corresponding climate data using regression tree modeling approaches. We then applied these models to three climate change scenarios produced by the Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis (CCCma) to predict and map productivity indices in 2065. Our results indicated that warming may lead to increased cumulative greenness in northern British Columbia and seasonality in vegetation is expected to decrease for higher elevations, while levels of minimum cover increase. The Coast Mountains of the Pacific Maritime region and high elevation edge habitats across British Columbia were forecasted to experience the greatest amount of change. Our approach provides resource managers with information to mitigate and adapt to future habitat dynamics. Forecasting vegetation productivity levels presents a novel approach for understanding the future implications of climate change on broad scale spatial patterns of vegetation.

Plain Language Summary

Current and historic conditions can be captured well using remote sensing. Applying algorithms to the reflectance data captured by satellite data we can quantify the amount of the sun’s energy is getting used (absorbed) by vegetation (aka vegetation productivity). Using archival satellite imagery then we can estimate the amount of energy absorbed by vegetation for current and historic conditions. Climate data for current and historic times can be related to the vegetation productivity data. Creating a link between satellite derived productivity and climate data, allows us to make projections of future vegetation productivity using future climate scenarios. Key findings indicate that changes in vegetation productivity for British Columbia are linked to location and elevation. Longer growing seasons and more vegetation is expected, with high elevations and edge habitats (transitions zones) expected to experience the greatest changes in vegetation conditions.

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