Satellite data as indicators of tree growth and dieback in a Mediterranean holm oak forest


CREAF, Cerdanyola del Vallès, E-08193, Catalonia, Spain; CSIC, Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CEAB-CSIC, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, E-08193, Catalonia, Spain
 Email: r.ogaya at

In the framework of climate change, decreased tree growth and enhanced mortality induced by hot and dry conditions areaffecting many forests around the world, and particularly in the Mediterranean basin. Our aim was to estimate tree growth and mortality in a Mediterranean holm oak forest, using remote sensing data from MODIS. We monitored annual increases of aboveground biomass by measuring tree basal area, and we determined tree mortality by counting dead stems. We analyzed the relationships between forest growth and mortality with mean annual values of some MODIS products and meteorological data.

Mortality and increases of aboveground biomass correlated well with precipitation, September standardized precipitation/evapotranspiration indices (SPEI), and some MODIS products such as NDVI and enhanced vegetation index EVI. Other MODIS products such as gross primary production (GPP) and net photosynthesis, however, showed no clear relationship with tree mortality or measured increases of biomass.

The MODIS products as proxies of ecosystemic productivity (gross primary productivity, net photosynthesis) were weakly correlated with biomass increase, and did not reflect the mortality following the drought of autumn 2011. Nevertheless, NDVI and EVI were efficient indicators of forest productivity and dieback.

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Photographs showing the mortality in the studied forest during early autumn 2011, and the same forest with healthy trees in autumn 2010

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