skip to main content

Title: Satellite Observed Positive Impacts of Fog on Vegetation

Fog is an important water source for many ecosystems, especially in drylands. Most fog‐vegetation studies focus on individual plant scale; the relationship between fog and vegetation function at larger spatial scales remains unclear. This hinders an accurate prediction of climate change impacts on dryland ecosystems. To this end, we examined the effect of fog on vegetation utilizing both optical and microwave remote sensing‐derived vegetation proxies and fog observations from two locations at Gobabeb and Marble Koppie within the fog‐dominated zone of the Namib Desert. Significantly positive relationships were found between fog and vegetation attributes from optical data at both locations. The positive relationship was also observed for microwave data at Gobabeb. Fog can explain about 10%–30% of variability in vegetation proxies. These findings suggested that fog impacts on vegetation can be quantitatively evaluated from space using remote sensing data, opening a new window for research on fog‐vegetation interactions.

 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Located at northern latitudes and subject to large seasonal temperature fluctuations, boreal forests are sensitive to the changing climate, with evidence for both increasing and decreasing productivity, depending upon conditions. Optical remote sensing of vegetation indices based on spectral reflectance offers a means of monitoring vegetation photosynthetic activity and provides a powerful tool for observing how boreal forests respond to changing environmental conditions. Reflectance‐based remotely sensed optical signals at northern latitude or high‐altitude regions are readily confounded by snow coverage, hampering applications of satellite‐based vegetation indices in tracking vegetation productivity at large scales. Unraveling the effects of snow can be challenging from satellite data, particularly when validation data are lacking. In this study, we established an experimental system in Alberta, Canada including six boreal tree species, both evergreen and deciduous, to evaluate the confounding effects of snow on three vegetation indices: the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), the photochemical reflectance index (PRI), and the chlorophyll/carotenoid index (CCI), all used in tracking vegetation productivity for boreal forests. Our results revealed substantial impacts of snow on canopy reflectance and vegetation indices, expressed as increased albedo, decreased NDVI values and increased PRI and CCI values. These effects varied among species and functionalmore »groups (evergreen and deciduous) and different vegetation indices were affected differently, indicating contradictory, confounding effects of snow on these indices. In addition to snow effects, we evaluated the contribution of deciduous trees to vegetation indices in mixed stands of evergreen and deciduous species, which contribute to the observed relationship between greenness‐based indices and ecosystem productivity of many evergreen‐dominated forests that contain a deciduous component. Our results demonstrate confounding and interacting effects of snow and vegetation type on vegetation indices and illustrate the importance of explicitly considering snow effects in any global‐scale photosynthesis monitoring efforts using remotely sensed vegetation indices.

    « less
  2. Abstract

    Imaging spectroscopy provides the opportunity to incorporate leaf and canopy optical data into ecological studies, but the extent to which remote sensing of vegetation can enhance the study of belowground processes is not well understood. In terrestrial systems, aboveground and belowground vegetation quantity and quality are coupled, and both influence belowground microbial processes and nutrient cycling. We hypothesized that ecosystem productivity, and the chemical, structural and phylogenetic‐functional composition of plant communities would be detectable with remote sensing and could be used to predict belowground plant and soil processes in two grassland biodiversity experiments: the BioDIV experiment at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in Minnesota and the Wood River Nature Conservancy experiment in Nebraska. We tested whether aboveground vegetation chemistry and productivity, as detected from airborne sensors, predict soil properties, microbial processes and community composition. Imaging spectroscopy data were used to map aboveground biomass, green vegetation cover, functional traits and phylogenetic‐functional community composition of vegetation. We examined the relationships between the image‐derived variables and soil carbon and nitrogen concentration, microbial community composition, biomass and extracellular enzyme activity, and soil processes, including net nitrogen mineralization. In the BioDIV experiment—which has low overall diversity and productivity despite high variation in each—belowground processesmore »were driven mainly by variation in the amount of organic matter inputs to soils. As a consequence, soil respiration, microbial biomass and enzyme activity, and fungal and bacterial composition and diversity were significantly predicted by remotely sensed vegetation cover and biomass. In contrast, at Wood River—where plant diversity and productivity were consistently higher—belowground processes were driven mainly by variation in the quality of aboveground inputs to soils. Consequently, remotely sensed functional, chemical and phylogenetic composition of vegetation predicted belowground extracellular enzyme activity, microbial biomass, and net nitrogen mineralization rates but aboveground biomass (or cover) did not. The contrasting associations between the quantity (productivity) and quality (composition) of aboveground inputs with belowground soil attributes provide a basis for using imaging spectroscopy to understand belowground processes across productivity gradients in grassland systems. However, a mechanistic understanding of how above and belowground components interact among different ecosystems remains critical to extending these results broadly.

    « less
  3. Abstract. Accurate boundary layer temperature and humidity profiles are crucial for successful forecasting of fog, and accurate retrievals of liquid water path are important for understanding the climatological significance of fog. Passive ground-based remote sensing systems such as microwave radiometers (MWRs) and infrared spectrometers like the Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (AERI), which measures spectrally resolved infrared radiation (3.3 to 19.2 µm), can retrieve both thermodynamic profiles and liquid water path. Both instruments are capable of long-term unattended operation and have the potential to support operational forecasting. Here we compare physical retrievals of boundary layer thermodynamic profiles and liquid water path during 12 cases of thin (LWP<40 g m−2) supercooled radiation fog from an MWR and an AERI collocated in central Greenland. We compare both sets of retrievals to in-situ measurements from radiosondes and surface-based temperature and humidity sensors. The retrievals based on AERI observations accurately capture shallow surface-based temperature inversions (0–10 m a.g.l.) with lapse rates of up to −1.2 ∘C m−1, whereas the strength of the surface-based temperature inversions retrieved from MWR observations alone are uncorrelated with in-situ measurements, highlighting the importance of constraining MWR thermodynamic profile retrievals with accurate surface meteorological data. The retrievals based on AERI observations detect fog onset (defined by a thresholdmore »in liquid water path) earlier than those based on MWR observations by 25 to 185 min. We propose that, due to the high sensitivity of the AERI instrument to near-surface temperature and small changes in liquid water path, the AERI (or an equivalent infrared spectrometer) could be a useful instrument for improving fog monitoring and nowcasting, particularly for cases of thin radiation fog under otherwise clear skies, which can have important radiative impacts at the surface.« less
  4. Abstract

    Salt marsh ecosystems are underrepresented in process‐based models due to their unique location across the terrestrial–aquatic interface. Particularly, the role of leaf nutrients on canopy photosynthesis (FA) remains unclear, despite their relevance for regulating vegetation growth. We combined multiyear information of canopy‐level nutrients and eddy covariance measurements with canopy surface hyperspectral remote sensing (CSHRS) to quantify the spatial and temporal variability of FAin a temperate salt marsh. We found that FAshowed a positive relationship with canopy‐level N at the ecosystem scale and for areas dominated bySpartina cynosuroides, but not for areas dominated by shortS. alterniflora. FAshowed a positive relationship with canopy‐level P, K, and Na, but a negative relationship with Fe, for areas associated withS. cynosuroides,S. alterniflora, and at the ecosystem scale. We used partial least squares regression (PLSR) with CSHRS and found statistically significant data–model agreements to predict canopy‐level nutrients and FA. The red‐edge electromagnetic region and ∼770 nm showed the highest contribution of variance in PLSR models for canopy‐level nutrients and FA, but we propose that underlying sediment biogeochemistry can complicate interpretation of reflectance measurements. Our findings highlight the relevance of spatial variability in salt marshes vegetation and the promising application of CSHRS for linking information of canopy‐levelmore »nutrients with FA. We call for further development of canopy surface hyperspectral methods and analyses across salt marshes to improve our understanding of how these ecosystems will respond to global environmental change.

    « less
  5. Beavers have established themselves as a key component of low arctic ecosystems over the past several decades. Beavers are widely recognized as ecosystem engineers, but their effects on permafrost-dominated landscapes in the Arctic remain unclear. In this study, we document the occurrence, reconstruct the timing, and highlight the effects of beaver activity on a small creek valley confined by ice-rich permafrost on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska using multi-dimensional remote sensing analysis of satellite (Landsat-8, Sentinel-2, Planet CubeSat, and DigitalGlobe Inc./MAXAR) and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) imagery. Beaver activity along the study reach of Swan Lake Creek appeared between 2006 and 2011 with the construction of three dams. Between 2011 and 2017, beaver dam numbers increased, with the peak occurring in 2017 (n = 9). Between 2017 and 2019, the number of dams decreased (n = 6), while the average length of the dams increased from 20 to 33 m. Between 4 and 20 August 2019, following a nine-day period of record rainfall (>125 mm), the well-established dam system failed, triggering the formation of a beaver-induced permafrost degradation feature. During the decade of beaver occupation between 2011 and 2021, the creek valley widened from 33 to 180 m (~450% increase) andmore »the length of the stream channel network increased from ~0.6 km to more than 1.9 km (220% increase) as a result of beaver engineering and beaver-induced permafrost degradation. Comparing vegetation (NDVI) and snow (NDSI) derived indices from Sentinel-2 time-series data acquired between 2017 and 2021 for the beaver-induced permafrost degradation feature and a nearby unaffected control site, showed that peak growing season NDVI was lowered by 23% and that it extended the length of the snow-cover period by 19 days following the permafrost disturbance. Our analysis of multi-dimensional remote sensing data highlights several unique aspects of beaver engineering impacts on ice-rich permafrost landscapes. Our detailed reconstruction of the beaver-induced permafrost degradation event may also prove useful for identifying degradation of ice-rich permafrost in optical time-series datasets across regional scales. Future field- and remote sensing-based observations of this site, and others like it, will provide valuable information for the NSF-funded Arctic Beaver Observation Network (A-BON) and the third phase of the NASA Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) Field Campaign.« less