Vegetation green leaf phenology directly impacts terrestrial ecosystems’ gross primary productivity (GPP). Satellite observations of land surface phenology (LSP) are essential to monitoring the critical timing of vegetation green leaf development. However, differences between satellite-derived LSP proxies and in-situ measurements of GPP make it challenging to quantify the impact of climate-induced changes in green leaf phenology on annual GPP.
North Carolina State University scientists estimated global changes in plant leaf growth owing to global warming using satellite photos and field sensors. The quantity of carbon dioxide plants can absorb and store depends significantly on changes in “greening” or the number of leaves plants can generate.
Study co-author Josh Gray, associate professor of forestry and environmental resources at NC State, said, “As we work to anticipate the future climate, a big question is: What’s going to happen to vegetation, one of the largest stores of carbon on earth?”
“We know temperatures will rise and the growing season will be longer in most places, but there are a lot of unknowns about how that will affect how carbon is cycled between plants and the atmosphere. Our new results allow us to be more confident about those changes.”