I will present research on drought-induced variability of sagebrushecosystem productivity in the Upper Green River Basin at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA at 10:35 am in Moscone West Rm 2008. My presentation is part of the session entitled: (B32C) Remote Sensing to Support Investigations in Plant-Climate Interactions.
Sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) mortality has recently been reported in the Upper Green River Basin (Wyoming, USA) of the sagebrush steppe of western North America. Numerous causes have been suggested, but recent drought (2012-13) is the likely mechanism of mortality in this water-limited ecosystem which provides critical habitat for many species of wildlife.
An understanding of the variability in patterns of productivity with respect to climate is essential to exploit landscape scale remote sensing for detection of subtle changes associated with mortality in this sparse, uniformly vegetated ecosystem. We used the standardized precipitation index to characterize drought conditions and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite imagery (250-m resolution) to characterize broad characteristics of growing season productivity. We calculated per-pixel growing season anomalies over a 16-year period (2000-2015) to identify the spatial and temporal variability in productivity. Metrics derived from Landsat satellite imagery (30-m resolution) were used to further investigate trends within anomalous areas at local scales. We found evidence to support an initial hypothesis that antecedent winter drought was most important in explaining reduced productivity. The results indicate drought effects were inconsistent over space and time. MODIS derived productivity deviated by more than four standard deviations in heavily impacted areas, but was well within the interannual variability in other areas. Growing season anomalies highlighted dramatic declines in productivity during the 2012 and 2013 growing seasons. However, large negative anomalies persisted in other areas during the 2014 growing season, indicating lag effects of drought. We are further investigating if the reduction in productivity is mediated by local biophysical properties. Our analysis identified spatially explicit patterns of ecosystem properties altered by severe drought which are consistent with field observations of sagebrush mortality. The results provide a theoretical framework for future field based investigation at multiple spatiotemporal scales.