Tree growth and vegetation activity at the ecosystem-scale in the eastern Mediterranean

Bethany L. Coulthard, Ramzi Touchan, Kevin J. Anchukaitis, David M. Meko, Fatih Sivrikaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Linking annual tree growth with remotely-sensed terrestrial vegetation indices provides a basis for using tree rings as proxies for ecosystem primary productivity over large spatial and long temporal scales. In contrast with most previous tree ring/remote sensing studies that have focused on temperature-limited boreal and taiga environments, here we compare the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) with a network of Pinus brutia tree ring width chronologies collected along ecological gradients in semiarid Cyprus, where both radial tree growth and broader vegetation activity are controlled by drought. We find that the interaction between precipitation, elevation, and land-cover type generate a relationship between radial tree growth and NDVI. While tree ring chronologies at higher-elevation forested sites do not exhibit climate-driven linkages with NDVI, chronologies at lower-elevation dry sites are strongly correlated with NDVI during the winter precipitation season. At lower-elevation sites, land cover is dominated by grasslands and shrublands and tree ring widths operate as a proxy for ecosystem-scale vegetation activity. Tree rings can therefore be used to reconstruct productivity in water-limited grasslands and shrublands, where future drought stress is expected to alter the global carbon cycle, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning in the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number084008
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 31 2017


  • Cyprus
  • NDVI
  • dendrochronology
  • drought
  • grasslands
  • remote sensing
  • shrublands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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