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Remote sensing-based monitoring of snow cover dynamics and its influence on vegetation growth in the Middle Atlas Mountains

Acil, Nezha LU (2016) In Master Thesis in Geographical Information Science GISM01 20142
Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
Abstract
Endowed with diverse vegetation covers, the Middle Atlas Mountains receive substantial snowfall in winter, which contributes to plant hydration during the growing season. Using remotely-sensed imagery, this study aims to assess the trends in snow cover variations between 2000 and 2015, analyse the local influence of snowpack persistence on vegetation growth and evaluate the significance of this effect by comparing snow-fed and non-snow-fed sites. Trend analyses with Mann-Kendall and Ordinary Least-Squares (OLS) methods showed that, at the regional level, maximum Snow Cover Area (SCA) did not significantly change. However, fine scale analysis of SCA and Snow Cover Duration (SCD) along elevations and among basins revealed a pattern of... (More)
Endowed with diverse vegetation covers, the Middle Atlas Mountains receive substantial snowfall in winter, which contributes to plant hydration during the growing season. Using remotely-sensed imagery, this study aims to assess the trends in snow cover variations between 2000 and 2015, analyse the local influence of snowpack persistence on vegetation growth and evaluate the significance of this effect by comparing snow-fed and non-snow-fed sites. Trend analyses with Mann-Kendall and Ordinary Least-Squares (OLS) methods showed that, at the regional level, maximum Snow Cover Area (SCA) did not significantly change. However, fine scale analysis of SCA and Snow Cover Duration (SCD) along elevations and among basins revealed a pattern of increase in the mid-elevations, particularly in the range 2250 - 2500 m and the ocean-facing Sebou basin. This tendency was supported by significantly larger maximum SCAs in spring for Sebou and the region as a whole. With lower certainty, SCA and SCD also flagged a non-significant decrease in the low altitudes, particularly in the more continental south-facing zones of Oum Er-Rbia basin. Kendall Rank correlation between SCD and vegetation growth, as approximated with the Plant Phenology Index (PPI), indicated that, while non-prominent in the low elevations, plant sensitivity to snow increased in the mid-elevations, either positively, mainly in the wetter and more fertile windward plateaus, or negatively, essentially on ridges, complex terrains and on the drier and highly-drained Moulouya slopes. Forests were the most benefitting from snow, while shrublands appeared the most adversely impacted. Above a certain altitudinal threshold between 2000 and 2500 m, snow influence became drastically negative for all the vegetation types. Finally, using Kruskall-Wallis test and Mann–Whitney U pair-wise comparisons, the gradual strengthening of snow effect with duration was highlighted for a sample of shrublands located in the range 2000 - 2250 m in the rain-shadowed Moulouya basin. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Famous for their magnificent forests and vast prairies, the Middle Atlas Mountains receive substantial snowfall in winter, which contributes to plant growth during spring and early summer. Using satellite imagery, the aim of this study was to assess whether snow cover in the Middle Atlas changed between 2000 and 2015 and evaluate locally how vegetation growth responded to snow persistence. The results showed that, while at the regional level, the overall maximum extent of snow cover did not change, at finer scales, snow area and duration tended to increase in the mid-elevations (1750 - 2500 m), particularly between 2250 - 2500 m and in the ocean-facing north-western side, whilst decreasing in the low elevations, notably on the more... (More)
Famous for their magnificent forests and vast prairies, the Middle Atlas Mountains receive substantial snowfall in winter, which contributes to plant growth during spring and early summer. Using satellite imagery, the aim of this study was to assess whether snow cover in the Middle Atlas changed between 2000 and 2015 and evaluate locally how vegetation growth responded to snow persistence. The results showed that, while at the regional level, the overall maximum extent of snow cover did not change, at finer scales, snow area and duration tended to increase in the mid-elevations (1750 - 2500 m), particularly between 2250 - 2500 m and in the ocean-facing north-western side, whilst decreasing in the low elevations, notably on the more continental south-facing slopes. A gain in maximum snow extent was also noted for the spring season and attributed to a potential increase in accumulation during winter. Regarding vegetation response, the results showed that, in the mid-elevations, plant growth was more sensitive to snow persistence, either positively, mainly in the wetter and more fertile windward plateaus, or negatively, essentially on ridges, complex terrains and on the drier and erosion-prone eastern slopes. Forests appeared the most benefitting from snow, probably as a source of water or for soil enhancement, while shrublands were the most damaged, likely by snowmelt-triggered flooding or cold-driven firewood harvesting. Above a certain altitude between 2000 and 2500 m, snow persistence became detrimental for all the vegetation covers, as it shortened the growing season and possibly worsened the already harsh habitat conditions. Finally, the gradual increase of snow impact with duration was highlighted for a sample of shrublands located in the range 2250 - 2500 m on the drier eastern side of the mountains. Providing optimal conditions for montane vegetation to thrive, the mid-elevation ranges appear to be the most sensitive to climate change. Further research on these key but vulnerable intermediate habitats is needed for more informed management and decision-making. (Less)
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author
Acil, Nezha LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
Monitoring snow cover and vegetation response : the mid-elevations are the most threatened by climate change
course
GISM01 20142
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
grasslands, shrublands, forests, Morocco, mountains, monitoring, remote sensing, MODIS, snow, vegetation, Physical Geography, Ecosystem analysis, GIS
publication/series
Master Thesis in Geographical Information Science
report number
57
language
English
id
8893147
date added to LUP
2016-10-07 11:42:16
date last changed
2016-10-07 11:42:16
@misc{8893147,
  abstract     = {Endowed with diverse vegetation covers, the Middle Atlas Mountains receive substantial snowfall in winter, which contributes to plant hydration during the growing season. Using remotely-sensed imagery, this study aims to assess the trends in snow cover variations between 2000 and 2015, analyse the local influence of snowpack persistence on vegetation growth and evaluate the significance of this effect by comparing snow-fed and non-snow-fed sites. Trend analyses with Mann-Kendall and Ordinary Least-Squares (OLS) methods showed that, at the regional level, maximum Snow Cover Area (SCA) did not significantly change. However, fine scale analysis of SCA and Snow Cover Duration (SCD) along elevations and among basins revealed a pattern of increase in the mid-elevations, particularly in the range 2250 - 2500 m and the ocean-facing Sebou basin. This tendency was supported by significantly larger maximum SCAs in spring for Sebou and the region as a whole. With lower certainty, SCA and SCD also flagged a non-significant decrease in the low altitudes, particularly in the more continental south-facing zones of Oum Er-Rbia basin. Kendall Rank correlation between SCD and vegetation growth, as approximated with the Plant Phenology Index (PPI), indicated that, while non-prominent in the low elevations, plant sensitivity to snow increased in the mid-elevations, either positively, mainly in the wetter and more fertile windward plateaus, or negatively, essentially on ridges, complex terrains and on the drier and highly-drained Moulouya slopes. Forests were the most benefitting from snow, while shrublands appeared the most adversely impacted. Above a certain altitudinal threshold between 2000 and 2500 m, snow influence became drastically negative for all the vegetation types. Finally, using Kruskall-Wallis test and Mann–Whitney U pair-wise comparisons, the gradual strengthening of snow effect with duration was highlighted for a sample of shrublands located in the range 2000 - 2250 m in the rain-shadowed Moulouya basin.},
  author       = {Acil, Nezha},
  keyword      = {grasslands,shrublands,forests,Morocco,mountains,monitoring,remote sensing,MODIS,snow,vegetation,Physical Geography,Ecosystem analysis,GIS},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis in Geographical Information Science},
  title        = {Remote sensing-based monitoring of snow cover dynamics and its influence on vegetation growth in the Middle Atlas Mountains},
  year         = {2016},
}