National Park Service

Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN)

Parks in this Network

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Satellite image of Four Corners Area

Land Surface
Phenology
Monitoring

SCPN parks have identified vital signs for this project and related monitoring

  1. Start of season
  2. End of season
  3. Spring peak greenness
  4. Monsoon peak greenness
  5. Season-long productivity
  6. Snow cover extent and duration
  7. Upland and riparian bird communities
  8. Integrated upland vegetation and soils

Parks where SCPN monitors land surface phenology

Park
Aztec Ruins NM
Bandelier NM
Canyon de Chelly NM
Chaco Culture NHP
El Malpais NM
El Morro NM
Glen Canyon NRA
Grand Canyon NP
Hubbell Trading Post NHS
Mesa Verde NP
Navajo NM
Petrified Forest NP
Petroglyph NM
Rainbow Bridge NM
Salinas Pueblo Missions NM
Sunset Crater NM
Walnut Canyon NM
Wupatki NM
Yucca House NM

Ecosystems develop and are maintained by landscape processes related to climate, geology and hydrology that operate over a range of scales and influence the distribution, abundance and productivity of plants and animals. Phenology, or the timing of annual events, such as spring greenup, is an indicator of an ecosystem's response to a suite of environmental variables, most notably climate. Land surface phenology refers to the measurement of phenology using remote sensing data, typically acquired from earth orbiting satellites. Through phenological monitoring of vegetation, we can examine status and trends in the integrated vegetation response to climate variability and climate trends.

Snow cover extent, timing and duration are important factors that respond to climate and are related to other ecosystem processes such as quantity and timing of soil moisture recharge, runoff, and streamflow. Changes in snow depth and duration ultimately affect growing season dynamics and net primary productivity in the region.

Climate change is projected to manifest itself in the western United States in a number of ways:

  • warmer temperatures
  • lower winter precipitation
  • a longer growing season with increased water stress

The consequences of changes in moisture availability driven by climate change may be severe in this region, as evidenced by drought and associated insect outbreaks, and by increased fire frequency and severity. Monitoring trends in the timing and intensity of vegetation phenology is important because these may be early indicators of whether current climate conditions and trends might support a continuation of the current vegetation, or represent increased stress or vulnerability for some plant species, or may presage gradual or sudden vegetation shifts.

Monitoring Objectives

SCPN is using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite data to monitor the phenology and condition of vegetation and snow cover in SCPN parks. All MODIS data used in this project are provided by NASA through the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) at the USGS/Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Monitoring objectives are

  • Determine annual status, interannual variability, and long-term trends in the timing of growing season start and end, and intensity of seasonal greenness.
  • Determine annual status, interannual variability, and long-term trends in the timing and duration of snow cover.
Aspen with fall colors at Bandelier NM<br/>(SCPN photo) Canyon de Chelly NM in winter<br/>(SCPN photo) Aspen regeneration at Bandelier NM<br/>(SCPN photo) Snow on hogan in Canyon de Chelly NM<br/>(SCPN photo) Brilliant summer green of Fence Canyon in Glen Canyon NRA (SCPN photo) Green regrowth after fire at Mesa Verde NP<br/>(SCPN photo) Cottonwood gallery in fall colors at Coyote Gulch in Glen Canyon NRA (SCPN photo) True color MODIS image of snow in New Mexico in December (NASA photo) Spring grasses at Yucca House NM<br/>(SCPN photo) Composite MODIS  image showing total spring leaf area in U.S. (NASA photo) Early snowfall in Colorado is visible in October MODIS true color image of Four Corners Area (NASA photo)

Monitoring Project Status

SCPN has MODIS satellite data covering SCPN parks from 2000 to the present. Currently, the network is working on addressing challenges in processing and analyzing MODIS data for arid ecosystems. The Land Surface Phenology Monitoring Protocol for the Park Units in the Northern and Southern Colorado Plateau Networks is being developed and is expected to be ready for review in 2013.

Project Contacts

Jodi Norris, Quantitative Ecologist
Southern Colorado Plateau Network

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Last Updated: January 23, 2018 Contact Webmaster