The present study classified global Ecosystem Functional Types (EFTs) derived from seasonal vegetation dynamics of the GIMMS3g NDVI time-series. Rotated Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was run on the derived phenological and productivity variables, which selected the Standing Biomass (approximation of Net Primary Productivity), the Cyclic Fraction (seasonal vegetation productivity), the Permanent Fraction (permanent surface vegetation), the Maximum Day (day of maximum vegetation development) and the Season Length (length of vegetation growing season) variables, describing 98% of the variation in global ecosystems. EFTs were created based on Isodata classification of the spatial patterns of the Principal Components and were interpreted via gradient analysis using the selected remote sensing variables and climatic constraints (radiation, temperature, and water) of vegetation growth. The association of the EFTs with existing climate and land cover classifications was demonstrated via Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA). The ordination indicated good description of the global environmental gradient by the EFTs, supporting the understanding of phenological and productivity dynamics of global ecosystems. Climatic constraints of vegetation growth explained 50% of variation in the phenological data along the EFTs showing that part of the variation in the global phenological gradient is not climate related but is unique to the Earth Observation derived variables. DCA demonstrated good correspondence of the EFTs to global climate and also to land use classification. The results show the great potential of Earth Observation derived parameters for the quantification of ecosystem functional dynamics and for providing reference status information for future assessments of ecosystem changes.
Remote Sensing, 2013, Vol 5, Issue 7, p. 3305-3330