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On the use of a snow aridity index to predict remotely sensed forest productivity in the presence of bark beetle disturbance, 2017


Knowles, J.F., Lestak, L.R., Molotch, N.P.


Wiley Online Library, Water Resources Research :4891-4906
DOI: 10.1002/2016WR019887
NWT Accession Number: NWT2018

Abstract

We used multiple sources of remotely sensed and ground based information to evaluate the spatiotemporal variability of snowpack accumulation, potential evapotranspiration (PET), and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) throughout the Southern Rocky Mountain ecoregion, USA. Relationships between these variables were used to establish baseline values of expected forest productivity given water and energy inputs. Although both the snow water equivalent (SWE) and a snow aridity index (SAI), which used SWE to normalize PET, were significant predictors of the long-term (1989–2012) NDVI, SAI explained 11% more NDVI variability than SWE. Deviations from these relationships were subsequently explored in the context of widespread forest mortality due to bark beetles. Over the entire study area, NDVI was lower per unit SAI in beetle-disturbed compared to undisturbed areas during snow-related drought; however, both SAI and NDVI were spatially heterogeneous within this domain. As a result, we selected three focus areas inside the larger study area within which to isolate the relative impacts of SAI and disturbance on NDVI using multivariate linear regression. These models explained 66%–85% of the NDVI and further suggested that both SAI and disturbance effects were significant, although the disturbance effect was generally greater. These results establish the utility of SAI as a measure of moisture limitation in snow-dominated systems and demonstrate a reduction in forest productivity due to bark beetle disturbance that is particularly evident during drought conditions resultant from low snow accumulation during the winter.

Keywords

snow aridity index, remote sensing, bark beetle, forest productivity, PET, NDVI, SWE, MODIS

Associated Niwot LTER Researchers:

Related Field Location(s):

Subalpine forest

Citation

Knowles, J.F., Lestak, L.R., Molotch, N.P., (2017) On the use of a snow aridity index to predict remotely sensed forest productivity in the presence of bark beetle disturbance. Wiley Online Library, Water Resources Research :4891-4906 , DOI: 10.1002/2016WR019887

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #DEB-1637686. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necesarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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