Precipitation drives the ndvi distribution on the tibetan plateau while high warming rates may intensify its ecological droughts

Kewei Jiao, Jiangbo Gao, Zhihua Liu

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33 Scopus citations


Climate change has significantly affected the ecosystem of the Tibetan Plateau. There, temperature rises and altered precipitation patterns have led to notable changes in its vegetation growth processes and vegetation cover features. Yet current research still pays relatively little attention to the regional climatic determinants and response patterns of such vegetation dynamics. In this study, spatial patterns in the response of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) to climate change and its dynamic characteristics during the growing season were examined for the Tibetan Plateau, by using a pixel-scale-based geographically weighted regression (GWR) based on the Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) NDVI data, as well as data for temperature and moisture indices collected at meteorological stations, for the period 1982-2015. The results show the following. Spatial nonstationary relationships, primarily positive, were found between the NDVI and climatic factors in the Tibetan Plateau. However, warming adversely affected vegetation growth and cover in some arid and semiarid regions of the northeast and west Tibetan Plateau. Additionally, precipitation played a dominant role in the NDVI of the Tibetan Plateau in the largest area (accounting for 39.7% of total area). This suggests that increased moisture conditions considerably facilitated vegetation growth and cover in these regions during the study period. Temperature mainly played a dominant role in the NDVI in some parts of the plateau sub-cold zone and some southeastern regions of the Tibetan Plateau. In particular, the minimum temperature was the dominant driver of NDVI over a larger area than any of the other temperature indices. Furthermore, spatial regressions between NDVI dynamics and climatic variability revealed that a faster warming rate in the arid and semiarid regions impeded vegetation growth through mechanisms such as drought intensification. Moisture variability was found to act as a key factor regulating the extent of vegetation cover on the south Tibetan Plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1305
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • Climate change
  • GWR
  • NDVI
  • Spatial heterogeneity
  • Tibetan Plateau


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