The natural ecosystems of the Northeast Region of Brazil (NEB) have experienced persistent drought episodes and environmental degradation during the past two decades. In this study, we examined the spatial heterogeneity and temporal dynamics of the NEB using a 20-year time series of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) observations, derived from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instrument. A set of 12 000 spatially distributed NDVI values was analysed to investigate significant deviations from the mean-monthly values of the base period (1982 2001) in the study area. Various statistical analyses involving minimum, mean and maximum values, coefficient of variation (CV), standardized anomalies (Z-scores), and 36-month running mean were applied to monthly NDVI values to identify spatial and temporal variations in vegetation dynamics. We found strong seasonal oscillations in the vegetation-growing season (February-May) over the NEB study area, with maximum NDVI observed in April-May and seasonal variations, expressed by the CV, ranging from 14% to 32%. In addition, a consistent upward trend in vegetation greenness occurred over the period 1984-1990, and was strongly reversed in the subsequent period 1991-1998. These upward and downward trends in vegetation greenness followed an inter-annual oscillation of similar to 7-8 years. We also found that dry season peak (September) latitudinal variations in NDVI were 20-25% greater in 1991-1999 than 1982-1990 across the study region. The results of this study suggest that patterns in NEB vegetation variability were a result of the impact of enhanced aridity occurring over the last decade of the 20th century. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
090GHTimes Cited:3Cited References Count:45