Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2015, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (2): 131-148.doi: 10.1007/s11442-015-1158-y

• Orginal Article •     Next Articles

Start of vegetation growing season on the Tibetan Plateau inferred from multiple methods based on GIMMS and SPOT NDVI data

Mingjun DING1,2(), Lanhui LI1, Yili ZHANG2,3,*(), Xiaomin SUN2,4, Linshan LIU2, Jungang GAO2, Zhaofeng WANG2, Yingnian LI5   

  1. 1. Key Lab of Poyang Lake Wetland and Watershed Research of Ministry of Education and School of Geography and Environment, Jiangxi Normal University, Nanchang 330022, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR), CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing 10101, China
    4. Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, IGSNRR, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    5. Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, CAS, Xining 810008, China;
  • Received:2014-08-18 Accepted:2014-09-26 Online:2015-02-15 Published:2015-06-24
  • Contact: Yili ZHANG;
  • About author:

    Author: Ding Mingjun (1979-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in land-use/land-cover change and physical geography.

  • Supported by:
    Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.XDB03030500;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41201095;No.41171080;No.41371120


In this study, we have used four methods to investigate the start of the growing season (SGS) on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) from 1982 to 2012, using Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data obtained from Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies (GIMSS, 1982-2006) and SPOT VEGETATION (SPOT-VGT, 1999-2012). SGS values estimated using the four methods show similar spatial patterns along latitudinal or altitudinal gradients, but with significant variations in the SGS dates. The largest discrepancies are mainly found in the regions with the highest or the lowest vegetation coverage. Between 1982 and 1998, the SGS values derived from the four methods all display an advancing trend, however, according to the more recent SPOT VGT data (1999-2012), there is no continuously advancing trend of SGS on the TP. Analysis of the correlation between the SGS values derived from GIMMS and SPOT between 1999 and 2006 demonstrates consistency in the tendency with regard both to the data sources and to the four analysis methods used. Compared with other methods, the greatest consistency between the in situ data and the SGS values retrieved is obtained with Method 3 (Threshold of NDVI ratio). To avoid error, in a vast region with diverse vegetation types and physical environments, it is critical to know the seasonal change characteristics of the different vegetation types, particularly in areas with sparse grassland or evergreen forest.

Key words: phenology, NDVI, start of vegetation growing season, method, Tibetan Plateau