Articles | Volume 16, issue 15
Research article
01 Aug 2016
Research article |  | 01 Aug 2016

Trends in normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) associated with urban development in northern West Siberia

Igor Esau, Victoria V. Miles, Richard Davy, Martin W. Miles, and Anna Kurchatova

Abstract. Exploration and exploitation of oil and gas reserves of northern West Siberia has promoted rapid industrialization and urban development in the region. This development leaves significant footprints on the sensitive northern environment, which is already stressed by the global warming. This study reports the region-wide changes in the vegetation cover as well as the corresponding changes in and around 28 selected urbanized areas. The study utilizes the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) from high-resolution (250 m) MODIS data acquired for summer months (June through August) over 15 years (2000–2014). The results reveal the increase of NDVI (or “greening”) over the northern (tundra and tundra-forest) part of the region. Simultaneously, the southern, forested part shows the widespread decrease of NDVI (or “browning”). These region-wide patterns are, however, highly fragmented. The statistically significant NDVI trends occupy only a small fraction of the region. Urbanization destroys the vegetation cover within the developed areas and at about 5–10 km distance around them. The studied urbanized areas have the NDVI values by 15 to 45 % lower than the corresponding areas at 20–40 km distance. The largest NDVI reduction is typical for the newly developed areas, whereas the older areas show recovery of the vegetation cover. The study reveals a robust indication of the accelerated greening near the older urban areas. Many Siberian cities become greener even against the wider browning trends at their background. Literature discussion suggests that the observed urban greening could be associated not only with special tending of the within-city green areas but also with the urban heat islands and succession of more productive shrub and tree species growing on warmer sandy soils.

Short summary
Vegetation cover in the remote and cold areas of northern West Siberia is rapidly changing. Analysis of summer maximum vegetation productivity index collected over 15 years (2000–2014) by Terra/Aqua satellites revealed “greening” over the northern (tundra/tundra-forest) and widespread “browning” over the southern (taiga) parts of the region. The vegetation changes around 28 urbanized areas were different. Many Siberian cities become greener even against wider browning trends at the background.
Final-revised paper