Precipitation changes and their relationships with vegetation responses during 1982-2015 in Kunhar River basin, Pakistan
Precipitation is a major determinant of vegetation growth. The impact of precipitation variability is more pronounced in ecosystems where sensitive vegetation is apparent. Therefore, understanding the relationship between precipitation and vegetation is vital to guide appropriate measures towards fragile biomes. We investigated the trends and correlations between precipitation and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) for 1982-2015 over the Kunhar River basin, Pakistan, using satellite-derived NDVI and globally available interpolated precipitation datasets. Subsequently, we attempt to identify vegetation types that are influenced by precipitation changes. Results show a general decreasing trend in vegetation activity as we go from southern to northern portions of the basin. This decrease is also accompanied by the similarly decreasing precipitation trend in the same direction. The similarity of spatial patterns between the two variables can indicate that, in general, precipitation is playing a guiding role in determining vegetation distribution in the basin. Our lagged correlation analysis revealed that strong precipitation-vegetation correlations (r > 0.75) are rare in the basin. Agricultural and forested areas show moderate correlations (0.5 < r < 0.75) when NDVI is correlated with the previous month's precipitation values (lag1). In simultaneous month correlation (lag0) and the rest of the lagged correlations (lag2 and lag3), a weak association between precipitation and NDVI is observed. The moderate and weak correlations over the basin might indicate that precipitation is not the only factor influencing vegetation growth in the Kunhar River basin. Other climatic and biogeographic factors such as temperature, solar radiation, topography and soil characteristics also play additional roles in vegetation activities. The results can provide a technical basis and valuable reference to ecological management strategies in the Kunhar River basin for concerned decision-makers and stakeholders.
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Pakistan Meteorological Department