Spatial Patterns of Vegetation Activity Related to ENSO in Northern South America


Interannual variability of vegetation activity (i.e., photosynthesis) is strongly correlated with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Globally, a reduction in carbon uptake by terrestrial ecosystems has been observed during the ENSO warm phase (El Niño) and the opposite during the cold phase (La Ni ña). However, this global perspective obscures the heterogeneous impacts of ENSO at regional scales. Particularly, ENSO has contrasting impacts on climate in northern South America (NSA) depending on the ENSO phase and geographical location, which in turn affect the activity of vegetation. Furthermore, changes of vegetation activity during multiple ENSO events are not well understood yet. In this study, we investigated the spatial and temporal differences in vegetation activity associated with ENSO variability and its three phases (El Niñ o, La Niña, Neutral) to identify hotspots of ENSO impacts in NSA, a region dominated by rainforest and savannas. To achieve this, we investigated time series of vegetation variables from 2001 to 2014 at moderate spatial resolution (0.0083° ). Data were aggregated through dimensionality reduction analysis (i.e., Global Principal Component Analysis). The leading principal component served as a proxy of vegetation activity (VAC). We calculated the cross-correlation between VAC and the multivariate ENSO index separately for each ENSO phase. Our results show that El Niño phase has a stronger impact on vegetation activity both in intensity and duration than La Niñ a phase. Moreover, seasonally dry ecoregions were more susceptible to El Niño impacts on vegetation activity. Understanding these differences is key for regional adaptation and differentiated management of ecosystems.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences

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