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Glob Chang Biol. 2015 Sep;21(9):3520-31. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12945. Epub 2015 May 19.

Time-lag effects of global vegetation responses to climate change.

Wu D1,2, Zhao X1, Liang S1,3, Zhou T4,5, Huang K4,5, Tang B1,2, Zhao W1,2.

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The State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875, China.
College of Global Change and Earth System Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875, China.
Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 20742, USA.
State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875, China.
Academy of Disaster Reduction and Emergency Management, Ministry of Civil Affairs and Ministry of Education, Beijing, 100875, China.


Climate conditions significantly affect vegetation growth in terrestrial ecosystems. Due to the spatial heterogeneity of ecosystems, the vegetation responses to climate vary considerably with the diverse spatial patterns and the time-lag effects, which are the most important mechanism of climate-vegetation interactive effects. Extensive studies focused on large-scale vegetation-climate interactions use the simultaneous meteorological and vegetation indicators to develop models; however, the time-lag effects are less considered, which tends to increase uncertainty. In this study, we aim to quantitatively determine the time-lag effects of global vegetation responses to different climatic factors using the GIMMS3g NDVI time series and the CRU temperature, precipitation, and solar radiation datasets. First, this study analyzed the time-lag effects of global vegetation responses to different climatic factors. Then, a multiple linear regression model and partial correlation model were established to statistically analyze the roles of different climatic factors on vegetation responses, from which the primary climate-driving factors for different vegetation types were determined. The results showed that (i) both the time-lag effects of the vegetation responses and the major climate-driving factors that significantly affect vegetation growth varied significantly at the global scale, which was related to the diverse vegetation and climate characteristics; (ii) regarding the time-lag effects, the climatic factors explained 64% variation of the global vegetation growth, which was 11% relatively higher than the model ignoring the time-lag effects; (iii) for the area with a significant change trend (for the period 1982-2008) in the global GIMMS3g NDVI (P < 0.05), the primary driving factor was temperature; and (iv) at the regional scale, the variation in vegetation growth was also related to human activities and natural disturbances. Considering the time-lag effects is quite important for better predicting and evaluating the vegetation dynamics under the background of global climate change.


GIMMS3g NDVI; climate change; precipitation; solar radiation; temperature; time-lag effects; vegetation growth

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