Greater phenological sensitivity on the higher Tibetan Plateau: new insights from weekly 5 km EVI2 datasets

Bingwen Qiu, Jiangping Zhong, Zhenghong Tang, Min Feng, Chongcheng Chen, Xiaoqin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Plateau vegetation is considered to be highly sensitive to climate change, especially at higher altitudes. Although the Tibetan Plateau has experienced intensive warming over the past few decades, there is much contradictory evidence regarding its phenological variations and the impact of climatic change. In this study, we explored vegetation phenology through the inflexion point-based method with the weekly 0.05° EVI2 datasets from 1982 to 2010. We observed complex spatiotemporal variations in vegetation phenology on the higher Tibetan Plateau from three aspects. From a spatial aspect, the altitudinal gradients of phenological dates, as well as their directions, varied among different altitudes over the past three decades. Compared with delaying with elevation at altitudes below 5000 m, the phenological parameters at altitudes above 5000 m significantly advanced with increasing altitudes. At higher altitudes, much stronger altitudinal gradients (slope) of phenological dates were observed in the 2000s than in the 1980s and 1990s, i.e., 2.19, 3.47, and 3.68 days’ advance for start, maximum, and end dates, respectively, compared to less than 1 day’s change per 100 m increase in altitude. From a temporal dynamic aspect, when analyzed at different altitudinal bands, the dynamic trends in phenological dates were generally not significant except the advancing trends in the maximum dates at altitudes above 5000 m and the delaying trend in the end dates at altitudes of 4500–5000 m in the twenty-first century. Remarkable elevation dependency was also observed at the pixel level: increasing amplitudes of phenological dynamic trends were observed at higher altitudes when obtaining their minimum around 5000 m. These spatiotemporal variations of vegetation phenology were due to combined effects from both temperature and precipitation: more abundant rainfall and greater magnitudes of dynamic trends were observed in the average daily minimum temperature (slope = 0.08 °C/year) and annual precipitation (slope = 2.17 mm/year) at higher altitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)807-820
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Biometeorology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Altitudinal gradients
  • Climate change
  • EVI2
  • Phenological sensitivity
  • Spatiotemporal variation
  • Tibetan plateau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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