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Title: Quantifying Drought Sensitivity of Mediterranean Climate Vegetation to Recent Warming: A Case Study in Southern California
A combination of drought and high temperatures (“global-change-type drought”) is projected to become increasingly common in Mediterranean climate regions. Recently, Southern California has experienced record-breaking high temperatures coupled with significant precipitation deficits, which provides opportunities to investigate the impacts of high temperatures on the drought sensitivity of Mediterranean climate vegetation. Responses of different vegetation types to drought are quantified using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data for the period 2000–2017. The contrasting responses of the vegetation types to drought are captured by the correlation and regression coefficients between Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomalies and the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). A novel bootstrapping regression approach is used to decompose the relationships between the vegetation sensitivity (NDVI–PDSI regression slopes) and the principle climate factors (temperature and precipitation) associated with the drought. Significantly increased sensitivity to drought in warmer locations indicates the important role of temperature in exacerbating vulnerability; however, spatial precipitation variations do not demonstrate significant effects in modulating drought sensitivity. Based on annual NDVI response, chaparral is the most vulnerable community to warming, which will probably be severely affected by hotter droughts in the future. Drought sensitivity of coastal sage scrub (CSS) is also shown to be very responsive to warming in fall and winter. Grassland and developed land will likely be less affected by this warming. The sensitivity of the overall vegetation to temperature increases is particularly concerning, as it is the variable that has had the strongest secular trend in recent decades, which is expected to continue or strengthen in the future. Increased temperatures will probably alter vegetation distribution, as well as possibly increase annual grassland cover, and decrease the extent and ecological services provided by perennial woody Mediterranean climate ecosystems as well.  more » « less
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Remote Sensing
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National Science Foundation
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