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A high-resolution spatial assessment of the impacts of drought variability on vegetation activity in Spain from 1981 to 2015

Journal article
Authors S. M. Vicente-Serrano
Cesar Azorin-Molina
M. Pena-Gallardo
M. Tomas-Burguera
F. Dominguez-Castro
N. Martin-Hernandez
S. Begueria
A. El Kenawy
I. Noguera
M. Garcia
Published in Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences
Volume 19
Issue 6
Pages 1189-1213
ISSN 1561-8633
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 1189-1213
Language en
Keywords remote-sensing data, land-surface temperature, iberian peninsula, soil-moisture, climate-change, great-plains, reference, evapotranspiration, meteorological drought, monitoring drought, temporal, analysis, Geology, Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences, Water Resources
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


Drought is a major driver of vegetation activity in Spain, with significant impacts on crop yield, forest growth, and the occurrence of forest fires. Nonetheless, the sensitivity of vegetation to drought conditions differs largely amongst vegetation types and climates. We used a high-resolution (1.1 km) spatial dataset of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) for the whole of Spain spanning the period from 1981 to 2015, combined with a dataset of the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) to assess the sensitivity of vegetation types to drought across Spain. Specifically, this study explores the drought timescales at which vegetation activity shows its highest response to drought severity at different moments of the year. Results demonstrate that - over large areas of Spain - vegetation activity is controlled largely by the interannual variability of drought. More than 90% of the land areas exhibited statistically significant positive correlations between the NDVI and the SPEI during dry summers (JJA). Nevertheless, there are some considerable spatio-temporal variations, which can be linked to differences in land cover and aridity conditions. In comparison to other climatic regions across Spain, results indicate that vegetation types located in arid-regions showed the strongest response to drought. Importantly, this study stresses that the timescale at which drought is assessed is a dominant factor in understanding the different responses of vegetation activity to drought. RAMS MD, 1990, FOREST SCIENCE, V36, P970

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