Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Organismal Biology and Ecology

Department or School/College

Division of Biological Sciences

Committee Chair

John S. Kimball

Commitee Members

Steven W. Running, Ragan M. Callaway, Anna Sala, Jack A. Stanford


Arctic Tundra, Boreal Forest, Climate Change, Evapotranspiration, Remote Sensing, Vegetation Productivity


University of Montana


I applied a satellite remote sensing based production efficiency model (PEM) using an integrated AVHRR and MODIS FPAR/LAI time series with a regionally corrected NCEP/NCAR reanalysis surface meteorology and NASA/GEWEX shortwave solar radiation inputs to assess annual terrestrial net primary productivity (NPP) for the pan-Arctic basin and Alaska from 1983 to 2005. I developed a satellite remote sensing based evapotranspiration (ET) algorithm using GIMMS NDVI with the above meteorology inputs to assess spatial patterns and temporal trends in ET over the pan-Arctic region. I then analyzed associated changes in the regional water balance defined as the difference between precipitation (P) and ET. I finally analyzed the effects of regional climate oscillations on vegetation productivity and the regional water balance.

The results show that low temperature constraints on Boreal-Arctic NPP are decreasing by 0.43% per year ( P < 0.001), whereas a positive trend in vegetation moisture constraints of 0.49% per year ( P = 0.04) are offsetting the potential benefits of longer growing seasons and contributing to recent drought related disturbances in NPP. The PEM simulations of NPP seasonality, annual anomalies and trends are similar to stand inventory network measurements of boreal aspen stem growth ( r = 0.56; P = 0.007) and atmospheric CO2 measurement based estimates of the timing of growing season onset (r = 0.78; P < 0.001).

The simulated monthly ET results agree well (RMSE = 8.3 mm month-1; R2 = 0.89) with tower measurements for regionally dominant land cover types. Generally positive trends in ET, precipitation and available river discharge measurements imply that the pan-Arctic terrestrial water cycle is intensifying. Increasing water deficits occurred in some boreal and temperate grassland regions, which agree with regional drought records and recent satellite observations of vegetation browning and productivity decreases.

Climate oscillations including Arctic Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation influence NPP by regulating seasonal patterns of low temperature and moisture constraints to photosynthesis.

The pan-Arctic water balance is changing in complex ways in response to climate change and variability, with direct linkages to terrestrial carbon and energy cycles. Consequently, drought induced NPP decreases may become more frequent and widespread, though the occurrence and severity of drought events will depend on future water cycle patterns.



© Copyright 2009 Ke Zhang