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1 September 2013 Linking Phenology and Biomass Productivity in South Dakota Mixed-Grass Prairie
Matthew Rigge, Alexander Smart, Bruce Wylie, Tagir Gilmanov, Patricia Johnson
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Assessing the health of rangeland ecosystems based solely on annual biomass production does not fully describe the condition of the plant community; the phenology of production can provide inferences about species composition, successional stage, and grazing impacts. We evaluated the productivity and phenology of western South Dakota mixed-grass prairie in the period from 2000 to 2008 using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). The NDVI is based on 250-m spatial resolution Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite imagery. Growing-season NDVI images were integrated weekly to produce time-integrated NDVI (TIN), a proxy of total annual biomass production, and integrated seasonally to represent annual production by cool- and warm-season species (C3 and C4, respectively). Additionally, a variety of phenological indicators including cool-season percentage of TIN were derived from the seasonal profiles of NDVI. Cool-season percentage and TIN were combined to generate vegetation classes, which served as proxies of the conditions of plant communities. TIN decreased with precipitation from east to west across the study area. However, the cool-season percentage increased from east to west, following patterns related to the reliability (interannual coefficient of variation [CV]) and quantity of midsummer precipitation. Cool-season TIN averaged 76.8% of the total TIN. Seasonal accumulation of TIN corresponded closely (R2 > 0.90) to that of gross photosynthesis data from a carbon flux tower. Field-collected biomass and community composition data were strongly related to TIN and cool-season percentage. The patterns of vegetation classes were responsive to topographic, edaphic, and land management influences on plant communities. Accurate maps of biomass production, cool- and warm-season composition, and vegetation classes can improve the efficiency of land management by facilitating the adjustment of stocking rates and season of use to maximize rangeland productivity and achieve conservation objectives. Further, our results clarify the spatial and temporal dynamics of phenology and TIN in mixed-grass prairie.

Matthew Rigge, Alexander Smart, Bruce Wylie, Tagir Gilmanov, and Patricia Johnson "Linking Phenology and Biomass Productivity in South Dakota Mixed-Grass Prairie," Rangeland Ecology and Management 66(5), 579-587, (1 September 2013).
Received: 10 July 2012; Accepted: 1 April 2013; Published: 1 September 2013

C3 and C4 species
land management
Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)
plant communities
remote sensing
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