Researchers have created an Earth’s map that shows vegetation sensitivity to climate variability, by using information collected by satellites. It can be really useful for national-scale ecosystem assessments, like Nordic Nature, according to researchers from the University of Bergen (UiB).
Based on the obtained satellite data, researchers have been able to determine which Earth areas have shown high sensitivity to climate variability in the last 14 years, says study’s lead author and researcher, Alistair Seddon at the Department of Biology at the UiB, in a press release published Thursday.
To define which ecosystems are more sensible to climate variabilities, the team identified climate drivers of vegetation productivity on monthly periods of time. As a result, the Vegetation Sensitivity Index (VSI) could serve to understand why some ecosystems present short-term climate anomalies. For instance, a warmer June than on average or an unusual cloudy September wrote researchers.
According to Dr. Seddon, they found that some regions, like the Arctic tundra, parts of the boreal forest belt, the tropical rainforest, alpine regions worldwide, prairie regions of central Asia and North and South America, forests in South America and eastern areas of Australia, have registered enlarged responses to climate variability.
“Our study provides a quantitative methodology for assessing the relative response rate of ecosystems – either natural ones or those with a strong anthropogenic footprint, to climate variability,” Dr. Alistair Seddon says, who received an FRIPRO Young Research Talent grant from the Research Council of Norway.
The study, which was published in the Nature journal, used satellite data from 2000 to 2013. According to Dr. Seddon, the team first identified which variables are climate related, including temperature, water availability, cloudiness and others, to determine productivity (of the environment) in specific locations.
Then they established a comparison between variability in ecosystem productivity obtained from satellite data, against variability in the important climate variables, he added in a statement. As a result, VSI provides information than can be used to evaluate the status of ecosystems on a global scale.
This data can be truly useful for national-scale ecosystem assessments, says Dr. Seddon. Moreover, since satellite measures are continuously being updated, the database will have more and more information. It is expected that in the future, researchers will be able to recalculate metrics over specific periods of time, to investigate how ecosystem sensitivity to climate variability changes over time, depending on Earth conditions.
According to researchers, this new map could help the scientific community to define the next areas of research, based on the multiple dimensions of ecosystems, which will be constantly changing over time due to increases in average temperatures.