Assessing phenological change in China from 1982 to 2006 using AVHRR imagery

Haiyan Wei, Philip Heilman, Jiaguo Qi, Mark A. Nearing, Zhihui Gu, Yongguang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Long-term trends in vegetation phenology indicate ecosystem change due to the combined impacts of human activities and climate. In this study we used 1982 to 2006 Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (AVHRR NDVI) imagery across China and the TIMESAT program to quantify annual vegetation production and its changing trend. Results showed great spatial variability in vegetation growth and its temporal trend across the country during the 25-year study period. Significant decreases in vegetation production were detected in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, and in industrializing regions in southern China, including the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta, and areas along the Yangtze River. Significant increases in vegetation production were found in Xinjiang, Central China, and North-east China. Validation of the NDVI trends and vegetated area changes were conducted using Landsat imagery and the results were consistent with the analysis from AVHRR data. We also found that although the causes of the vegetation change vary locally, the spatial pattern of the vegetation change and the areas of greatest impact from national policies launched in the 1970s, such as the opening of economic zones and the 'Three-North Shelter Forest Programme', are similar, which indicates an impact of national policies on ecosystem change and that such impacts can be detected using the method described in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-236
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers of Earth Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • climate change
  • desertification
  • phenology
  • policy
  • remote sensing
  • temporal trend

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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