To maintain and restore the ecological integrity of floodplains, allocating water for environmental benefits (i.e. environmental water) is widely practised globally. To efficiently manage the always limited environmental water, there is pressing need to advance our understanding of the ecological response to long-term climate cycles as evidence grows of intensification of extreme climatic events such as severe drought and heat waves. In this study, we assessed the alleviating effects of artificial flooding on drought impact using the canopy condition of the iconic river red gum forests in Australia's Murray Darling Basin (MDB). To achieve this, we jointly analysed spatial-temporal patterns of NDVI response and drought conditions for the period of 2000–2013, during which the MDB experienced an extreme dry–wet cycle. Our results indicated that while NDVI-derived canopy condition was better at the sites receiving environmental water during the dry phases, both watered and unwatered sites displayed great similarity in seasonality and trends. Furthermore, we did not find any significant difference in NDVI response of the canopy between the sites to suggest significant differences in ecosystem stability and resilience, with watered and unwatered sites showing similar responses to the extreme wet conditions as the drought broke. The highly significant relationship between long-term drought index and NDVI anomaly suggest that climate phase is the main forcing driving canopy condition in semi-arid floodplain forests.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Aug 15, 2015
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