Spatiotemporal Peatland Productivity and Climate Relationships Across the Western South American Altiplano

Talia G. Anderson, Duncan A. Christie, ROBERTO ORLANDO CHAVEZ OYANADEL, Matias Olea, Kevin J. Anchukaitis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The South American Altiplano is one of the largest semiarid high-altitude plateaus in the world. Within the Altiplano, peatlands known as “bofedales” are important components of regional hydrology and provide key water resources and ecosystem services to Andean communities. Warming temperatures, changes in hydroclimate, and shifting atmospheric circulation patterns all affect peatland dynamics and hydrology. It is therefore urgent to better understand the relationships between climate variability and the spatiotemporal variations in peatland productivity across the Altiplano. Here, we explore climate influences on peatland vegetation using 31 years of Landsat data. We focus specifically on the bofedal network in the western Altiplano, the driest sector of the plateau, and use the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) as an indicator of productivity. We develop temporally and spatially continuous NDVI products at multiple scales in order to evaluate relationships with climate variables over the past three decades. We demonstrate that cumulative precipitation and snow persistence over the prior 2 years are strongly associated with growing season productivity. A step change in peatland productivity between 2013–2015 drives an increasing trend in NDVI and is likely a response to consecutive years of anomalously high snow accumulation and rainfall. Early summer minimum temperatures emerge as a secondary influence on productivity. Understanding large-scale productivity dynamics and characterizing the response of bofedales to climate variability over the last three decades provides a baseline to monitor the responses of Andean peatlands to climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JG005994
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume126
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Altiplano
  • Andes
  • bofedales
  • NDVI
  • peatlands

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