Questions: What are the current dynamics, as observed by synoptic sensors, of surface vegetation in Spanish protected areas? Are these areas and their vegetation types uniformly affected by the increase in vegetation greenness detected throughout Europe?
Location: Iberian National Parks of Spain.
Methods: We used the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) from global inventory modeling and mapping studies (GIMMS) advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) dataset to monitor surface vegetation. NDVI is a surrogate for the photosynthetically active radiation absorbed by vegetation (fAPAR). This functional attribute has a short-time response to disturbances, is connected to ecosystem services and can be monitored through remote sensing. First, we provide a baseline description of the NDVI dynamics in the parks and analysed its temporal trends (1981–2003). Then, we evaluated the relationships of the seasonal dynamics and interannual trends with the climate conditions, vegetation types and conservation histories of the parks.
Results: The parks showed two patterns of NDVI dynamics corresponding to Mediterranean and Eurosiberian regions. Most parks showed areas with positive NDVI trends that tended to have higher proportions of Mediterranean coniferous and mixed forests, oro-Mediterranean scrublands, heathlands, maquis and garrigues. Negative trends were scarce and associated with marshes and Alpine coniferous forests. The lack of a common response in all parks was related to their different environmental conditions, management, and conservation histories.
Conclusions: National parks are changing in the short term but not uniformly. This study represents a basis for the incorporation of functional attributes of ecosystems in the management and monitoring of protected areas in the face of global change.