08 Jul 2024
 | 08 Jul 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Combined effects of topography, soil moisture and snow cover regimes on growth responses of grasslands in a low mountain range (Vosges, France)

Pierre-Alexis Herrault, Albin Ullmann, and Damien Ertlen

Abstract. Growth responses of low mountain grasslands to Climate Change are poorly understood despite very large surfaces covered in Central Europe. They are characterized by still present agricultural exploitation and complex topographical features that limit species migration and increase differences in snow regimes. This study examined MODIS surface reflectances between 2000 and 2020 across the Vosges mountain grasslands to investigate trends and drivers of spatial patterns in annual maximum NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index). We found a majority of no significant trends indicating several environmental and ecological compensatory effects to warming in the Vosges Mountains. We also noted hotspots of browning grasslands (a decrease of annual maximum NDVI), largely overrepresented compared to the greening ones (an increase of annual maximum of NDVI), a pattern in contradiction with most productivity signals highlighted in European high mountain grasslands. Spatial patterns of browning are enhanced on north-facing slopes and at low elevations (<1100 m) where high producing grasslands with dominant herbaceous communities prevail. A low soil water recharge also appears pivotal to explain the probability of browning in the study site. Through the use of Winter Habitat Indices, we noted high responsiveness of low mountain grasslands to differences in intra seasonal snow regimes, partly modulated by topographic features. Prolonged and time-continuous snow cover promote higher productivity and shortened green-up period. High number of frost events result in lower productivity and prolonged green-up period. We hypothesize that observed growth responses in the Vosges Mountains are indicative of long term future responses to Climate Change in high mountain ranges. With shorter and more discontinuous snow cover, we expect higher diversity of growth responses in European low mountain grasslands due to strong contextual effects and high terrain complexity.

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Pierre-Alexis Herrault, Albin Ullmann, and Damien Ertlen

Status: open (until 28 Aug 2024)

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Pierre-Alexis Herrault, Albin Ullmann, and Damien Ertlen
Pierre-Alexis Herrault, Albin Ullmann, and Damien Ertlen


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Short summary
Mountain grasslands are impacted by Climate Change and need to adapt. Low mountain grasslands are poorly understood compared to High Mountains massif. Thanks to satellite archives, we found that grasslands occurring in the Vosges Mountains (France) exhibited stable productivity or tended to decrease in specific regions of the massif, a reverse signal observed in High Mountains massif. We also noted a high responsiveness in their growth strategy to soil moisture, snow regimes and topography.