Impacts of abiotic and biotic factors on tundra productivity near Utqiaġvik, Alaska

Qingyuan Zhang, Xuesong Zhang, Mark J. Lara, Zhengpeng Li, Jingfeng Xiao, Kaiguang Zhao, Tongxi Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Earlier snowmelt, warmer temperatures and herbivory are among the factors that influence high-latitude tundra productivity near the town of Utqiaġvik in northern Alaska. However, our understanding of the potential interactions between these factors is limited. MODIS observations provide cover fractions of vegetation, snow, standing water, and soil, and fractional absorption of photosynthetically active radiation by canopy chlorophyll (fAPARchl) per pixel. Here, we evaluated a recent time-period (2001-2014) that the tundra experienced large interannual variability in vegetation productivity metrics (i.e. fAPARchl and APARchl), which was explainable by both abiotic and biotic factors. We found earlier snowmelt to increase soil and vegetation cover, and productivity in June, while warmer temperatures significantly increased monthly productivity. However, abiotic factors failed to explain stark decreases in productivity during August of 2008, which coincided with a severe lemming outbreak. MODIS observations found this tundra ecosystem to completely recover two years later, resulting in elevated productivity. This study highlights the potential roles of both climate and herbivory in modulating the interannual variability of remotely retrieved plant productivity metrics in Arctic coastal tundra ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number094070
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023


  • Arctic tundra
  • earlier snowmelt
  • fAPAR
  • lemming herbivory
  • productivity
  • warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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