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Evidence for a weakening relationship between interannual temperature variability and northern vegetation activity

Shilong Piao, Huijuan Nan, Chris Huntingford, Philippe Ciais, Pierre Friedlingstein, Stephen Sitch, Shushi Peng, Anders Ahlström, Josep G. Canadell, Nan Cong, Sam Levis, Peter E. Levy, Lingli Liu, Mark R. Lomas, Jiafu Mao, Ranga B. Myneni, Philippe Peylin, Ben Poulter, Xiaoying Shi, Guodong Yin, Nicolas Viovy, Tao Wang, Xuhui Wang, Soenke Zaehle, Ning Zeng, Zhenzhong Zeng and Anping Chen

Nature Communications, published: 16 October 2014
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6018

Paper Abstract

Satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a proxy of vegetation productivity, is known to be correlated with temperature in northern ecosystems. This relationship, however, may change over time following alternations in other environmental factors. Here we show that above 30°N, the strength of the relationship between the interannual variability of growing season NDVI and temperature (partial correlation coefficient RNDVI-GT) declined substantially between 1982 and 2011. This decrease in RNDVI-GT is mainly observed in temperate and arctic ecosystems, and is also partly reproduced by process-based ecosystem model results. In the temperate ecosystem, the decrease in RNDVI-GT coincides with an increase in drought. In the arctic ecosystem, it may be related to a nonlinear response of photosynthesis to temperature, increase of hot extreme days and shrub expansion over grass-dominated tundra. Our results caution the use of results from interannual time scales to constrain the decadal response of plants to ongoing warming.