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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Spatio-temporal variation in leaf area index in the Yan Mountains over the past 40 years and its relationship to hydrothermal conditions

Guo, Da; Song, Xiaoning; Hu, Ronghai; Ma, Rui; Zhang, Yanan; Gao, Liang; Zhu, Xinming; Kardol, Paul


Changes in hydrothermal conditions have significant effects on vegetation, but there is still a lack of understanding of how vegetation responds to land surface (surface temperature and soil moisture) and meteorological (temperature and precipitation) conditions in mountain regions. This study examined the trends of leaf area index (LAI) in the Yan Mountains over the last four decades using Global Land Surface Satellite (GLASS) data. The results showed a persistent increase of LAI (greening) over 20 % to 80 % of the study area in growing season, spring, summer and autumn. Anthropogenic activities caused the greening trend by crop management before 2000 and afforestation after 2000. The increasing rate of LAI varied with elevation, and the most significant increase occurred in areas between 300 and 900 m, and the lowest increase occurred in areas below 300 m. Moreover, we found that LAI was negatively correlated with land surface temperature and soil moisture, but positively correlated with precipitation and air temperature. The time-lag effect was found between hydro thermal factors and LAI in the past four decades. There was a time lag of 2-3 months between LAI changes and temperature/precipitation during the early and late stages of the growing season, and a time lag of 0-1 month during the middle stage. Specifically, there was no time lag in vegetation response to surface soil moisture, and a time lag of 2-3 months in vegetation response to land surface temperature from July to October. Our findings provide insights into how vegetation adapts to land surface and climatic hydrothermal conditions in mountain regions and can be used by governments to develop policies for ecological protection.


Mountains; Climate change; Leaf area index; Vegetation greening; Global warming; Precipitation

Published in

Ecological Indicators
2023, Volume: 157, article number: 111291
Publisher: ELSEVIER