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Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems

This study will investigate the dynamics of vegetation in the Sudano-Sahelian region of Africa to improve the understanding of dryland ecosystems functions and interactions with the climate. Regional vegetation productivity and phenology and their environmental correlations are well-known, but the mechanisms are little understood at this scale, and unexplained relationships challenge current understanding. The effects of important aspects of dryland environments, such as episodic rainfall pulses, are little known at this scale. Time lags between pulses of rainfall, for example, presumably have a threshold beyond which the vegetation does not respond. Extensive areas with poor correlations between annual vegetation growth and rainfall have been reported, notwithstanding the existence of strong regional correlations. Current knowledge of surface water and energy fluxes suggests that these anomalies will affect the climate. The objectives are: 1) Systematically survey and inventory periodicities in vegetation cover, leaf are index and net production for 27+yrs using high temporal resolution satellite data; 2) Form hypotheses about endogenous and environmental causes of the various types of vegetation dynamics, develop algorithms relating the two, and define new plant functional type properties; 3) Modify an existing, coupled soil-vegetation-atmosphere-transfer model (SSiB-4) and a dynamic vegetation model (TRIFFID) to simulate observed vegetation dynamics and use a mesoscale climate model (WRF) to determine the impact on the regional climate. The West African monsoon has not been modeled satisfactorily, and evidence indicates that poor specification of vegetation processes contributes to the inaccuracy. We intend to make a more complete description of the principal temporal and spatial patterns of variation in vegetation in the Sudano-Sahelian region, to assess the roles of endogenous and exogenous environmental processes, including anthropogenic land cover changes, and to determine their effects on the regional climate. Significant improvements in understanding dryland ecosystem processes at the regional scale and its climate are anticipated.

Project PI: Stephen Prince/University of Maryland

LeFrak 1169 (mail to Rm 2181),Department of Geography, 2181 LeFrak Hall, University of Maryland, College Park MD 20742

Phone: (301)405-4062

Fax: (301)314-9299

Email: sprince@geog.umd.edu

http://www.geog.umd.edu/people/Prince/Prince.html

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Started: Aug 09, 2010

Last Activity: Dec 10, 2010

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