Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A look at the world explains 90 percent of changes in vegetation

Date:
April 16, 2013
Source:
University of Zurich
Summary:
In the last thirty years, vegetation has changed significantly the world over. Until recently, the extent to which the climate or humankind was responsible remained unclear. However, geographers now reveal that over half of these changes are climatological, humans or as yet unknown human-climate interactions cause about a third and around ten percent cannot be explained fully by either the climate or human activity.

This shows climatic changes in temperature, cloud cover, precipitation and potential evaporation (1982-2008).
Credit: UZH

In the last thirty years, vegetation has changed significantly the world over. Until recently, the extent to which the climate or humankind was responsible remained unclear. However, geographers from the University of Zurich and colleagues from the Netherlands now reveal that over half of these changes are climatological, humans or as yet unknown human-climate interactions cause over a third and around ten percent cannot be explained fully by either the climate or human activity.

Related Articles


The climate governs the seasonal activity of vegetation; humankind influences it. In the humid mid-latitudes, temperature is the largest influencing factor for plant growth. In predominantly dry areas, however, it is the availability of water and in the high latitudes incident solar radiation. Without a doubt, humankind also has a modifying impact on the ecosystem. Satellites have been recording how the vegetation on Earth's surface is changing since the 1980s. Within the last thirty years, for instance, vegetation activity has increased in the northern hemisphere but declined in the southern hemisphere. Until recently, it was not possible to quantify the extent to which climate variability, human activity or a combination of the two factors were responsible for this.

An interdisciplinary team headed by geographers Rogier de Jong, Michael Schaepman and mathematician Reinhard Furrer from the University of Zurich, however, has now developed a model together with Dutch colleagues that can illustrate the influences of human activity and climate variability on vegetation separately. To this end, they used satellite data on the vegetation increase or decline from the last thirty years, climate measurements and models, and data on the kind of land cover. The scientists demonstrate that around 54 percent of the changes in global vegetation activity can be attributed to climate variability.

Over 30 percent of the changes caused by human activity

More than 30 percent of the changes were caused by human activity, de Jong, a postdoctoral student at the University of Zurich's Remote Sensing Laboratories (RSL) said. Vegetation activity primarily declined south of the Sahel region, such as in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and in the Congo. "We assume that this was caused by clear cutting, the transformation of rainforest into plantations or changes in agriculture in general," explains de Jong. Around ten percent cannot be explained fully by climatology or human activity. "We suspect that this is due to unexplained effects of the interactions between humans and the climate," says Head of the RSL Michael Schaepman.

Schaepman and his team will pursue these interactions further under the newly created research priority program "Global Change and Biodiversity" at the University of Zurich.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Zurich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Rogier de Jong, Michael E. Schaepman, Reinhard Furrer, Sytze de Bruin, Peter H. Verburg. Spatial relationship between climatologies and changes in global vegetation activity. Global Change Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12193
  2. Rogier de Jong, Jan Verbesselt, Achim Zeileis, Michael Schaepman. Shifts in Global Vegetation Activity Trends. Remote Sensing, 2013; 5 (3): 1117 DOI: 10.3390/rs5031117

Cite This Page:

University of Zurich. "A look at the world explains 90 percent of changes in vegetation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130416085139.htm>.
University of Zurich. (2013, April 16). A look at the world explains 90 percent of changes in vegetation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130416085139.htm
University of Zurich. "A look at the world explains 90 percent of changes in vegetation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130416085139.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) Lava from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has accelerated as it travels toward a town called Pahoa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins