Observing and modeling climate controls and feedbacks on vegetation phenology at local-to-continental scales
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Vegetation phenology controls seasonal variation in ecosystem processes and exerts important controls on land-atmosphere exchanges of carbon, water, and energy. However, the ecological processes and interactions between climate and vegetation that control phenology and associated feedbacks to the atmosphere are not fully understood. In this dissertation, I use remote sensing in combination with climate and ecological data to improve understanding of biophysical controls and feedbacks between vegetation phenology and the atmosphere in temperate forest ecosystems of North America. In the first part of this dissertation, I evaluate the agreement and characterize the similarities and differences between land surface phenology products from two remote sensing instruments (MODIS and VIIRS) that are designed to provide long-term continuity of land surface phenology measurements at global scale. Results from this analysis indicate that the VIIRS land surface phenology product provides excellent continuity with the MODIS record despite subtle differences between each instrument and the algorithms used to generate each product. In the second part of this dissertation, a state-space Bayesian modeling framework is applied to seventeen years of MODIS and daily weather data to improve understanding of what controls the timing of springtime phenology in deciduous forests of temperate and boreal North America. Results show that photoperiod is more important in warmer regions than in colder regions, which contradicts a widely held hypothesis that photoperiod provides a key safety mechanism preventing early leaf-out during springtime. In the final part of this dissertation, I use a physically-based attribution method to quantify the relative importance of covarying surface biophysical and atmospheric variables in modifying the surface energy balance during springtime. Results show that the widely observed decrease in the Bowen ratio that occurs with leaf emergence is not solely attributable to changes in surface resistance caused by increasing leaf area during spring. Rather, observed changes in the Bowen ratio reflect the combined effects of changes in surface properties and atmospheric conditions. The results from this dissertation provide an improved foundation for long-term studies focused on observing and modeling springtime vegetation phenology and associated feedbacks to the atmosphere in deciduous forest ecosystems at local-to-continental scales.