Tracking Fine-Grain Phenological Dynamics at a Landscape Extent Using a Network of Near-Surface Digital Repeat Photography Stations in West Greenland

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Jeffrey Kerby, Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, University Park, PA, United States and Eric Post, Penn State University, Department of Biology, University Park, PA, United States
The phenology of vegetation emergence in the Arctic is highly sensitive to climatic fluctuations. Spring phenology drives ecological processes across local, population, and ecosystem scales. Traditional approaches to capturing spatio-temporal variation in the annual timing and pace of Arctic green-up, like satellite-derived and plot-level records, are limited by trade-offs in the grain and extent of monitoring through both space and time. Recent studies demonstrate the utility of tracking canopy phenology using near-surface digital repeat photography (phenocams) to overcome spatial and temporal grain limitations at the extent of individual plants or vegetation stands. However, our understanding of how fine-grain phenological dynamics scale to landscape extents is incomplete. Here we report on the fine-grain green-up dynamics of a low-Arctic tundra system in West Greenland at the extent of a caribou calving range (40 km2) using three years (2012-2014) of phenological records derived from a network of 50 phenocams, field observations, and high-resolution satellite imagery. Using geostatistics and multiple-regression models, we characterize spatiotemporal patterns of plant phenology, landscape controls on the timing of emergence of common shrub and graminoid species, and assess scale-dependency in patterns of vegetation green-up. We link these results with coarse-grained satellite records of plant phenology to clarify how fine-grained dynamics contribute to the widely reported broad-scale patterns of phenological and ecological change in the Arctic.