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Determinants of the interannual relationships between remote sensed photosynthetic activity and rainfall in tropical Africa

Abstract : The response of photosynthetic activity to interannual rainfall variations in Africa South of the Sahara is examined using 20 years (1981-2000) of Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) AVHRR data. Linear correlations and regressions were computed between annual NDVI and annual rainfall at a 0.5° latitude/longitude resolution, based on two gridded precipitation datasets (Climate Prediction Center Merged Analysis of Precipitation [CMAP] and Climatic Research Unit [CRU]). The spatial patterns were then examined to detect how they relate to the mean annual rainfall amounts, land-cover types as from the Global Land Cover 2000 data set, soil properties and soil types. Yearly means were computed starting from the beginning of the vegetative year (first month after the minimum of the NDVI mean regime), with a one-month lead for rainfall. One third of tropical Africa displays significant (95% c.l.) correlations between interannual NDVI variations and those of rainfall. At continental scale, soil types and soil properties are only minor factors in the overall distribution of the correlations. Mean annual rainfall amounts and land-cover types are much more discriminating. The largest correlations, mostly over 0.60, are distinctly found in semi-arid (200-600 mm annual rainfall) open grassland and cropland areas. The presence of one of these two determinants (semi-aridity, and favourable land-cover type, i.e. open grassland and cropland) in the absence of the other does not systematically result in a significant correlation between rainfall and NDVI. By contrast, NDVI variations are independent from those of rainfall in markedly arid environments and in most forest and woodland areas. This results from a low signal-to-noise ratio in the former, and the fact that precipitation is generally not a limiting factor in the latter. The marginal response of NDVI to a given increase/decrease in rainfall, as described by the slope of the regression, displays a similar pattern to that of the correlation, with maximum slopes in semi-arid regions, except that a weaker response is noted in more densely populated areas, suggesting an incidence of particular land-use and agricultural practises. One-year lag relationships between annual rainfall and NDVI in the next year were also considered. Ten percent of the grid-points show significant correlations, but the spatial patterns remain difficult to interpret.
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Contributor : Pierre Camberlin Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Tuesday, April 1, 2008 - 12:20:18 PM
Last modification on : Friday, June 8, 2018 - 2:50:10 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Monday, June 27, 2011 - 4:07:13 PM


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Pierre Camberlin, Nadège Martiny, Nathalie Philippon, yves Richard. Determinants of the interannual relationships between remote sensed photosynthetic activity and rainfall in tropical Africa. Remote Sensing of Environment, Elsevier, 2007, 106, pp.199-216. ⟨hal-00150021⟩



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