Biophysical Remote Sensing and Terrestrial CO2 Exchange at Cape Bounty, Melville Island

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Gregory, Fiona Marianne
IKONOS , Net Ecosystem Exchange , Polar Desert , Tundra , Arctic , Sedge Meadow , NDVI , Remote Sensing , CO2
Cape Bounty, Melville Island is a partially vegetated High Arctic landscape with three main plant communities: polar semi-desert (47% of the study area), mesic tundra (31%) , and wet sedge meadows (7%). The objective of this research was to relate biophysical measurements of soil, vegetation, and CO2 exchange rates in each vegetation type to high resolution satellite data from IKONOS-2, extending plot level measurements to a landscape scale. Field data was collected through six weeks of the 2008 growing season. Two IKONOS images were acquired, one on July 4th and the other on August 2nd. Two products were generated from the satellite data: a land-cover classification and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The three vegetation types were found to have distinct soil and vegetation characteristics. Only the wet sedge meadows were a net sink for CO2; soil respiration tended to exceed photosynthesis in the sparsely vegetated mesic tundra and polar semi-desert. Scaling up the plot measurements by vegetation type area suggested that Cape Bounty was a small net carbon source (0.34 ± 0.47 g C m-2 day-1) in the summer of 2008. NDVI was strongly correlated with percent vegetation cover, vegetation volume, soil moisture, and moderately with soil nitrogen, biomass, and leaf area index (LAI). Photosynthesis and respiration of CO2 both positively correlated with NDVI, most strongly when averaged over the season. NDVI increased over time in every vegetation type, but this change was not reflected in any significant measured changes in vegetation or CO2 flux rates. A simple spatial model was developed to estimate Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE) at every pixel on the satellite images based on NDVI, temperature and incoming solar radiation. It was found that the rate of photosynthesis per unit NDVI was higher early in the growing season. The model estimated a mean flux to the atmosphere of 0.21 g C m-2 day-1 at the time of image acquisition on July 4th, and -0.07 g C m-2 day-1 (a net C sink) on August 2nd. The greatest uncertainty in the relationship between NDVI and CO2 flux was associated with the polar semi-desert class.
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